What you need to know about HPV and HPV-related cancers
HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.
Check out this HPV Vaccine: Long-Lasting Cancer Protection infographic (PDF) | (DOCX) for more information on HPV and HPV vaccine in Massachusetts.
Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infection can cause:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men; and
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
Every year in the United States, HPV causes around 33,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 31,000) from occurring. Oropharyngeal cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related cancer.
Information on HPV Vaccine
The best protection against HPV-related cancers is for boys and girls to get vaccinated early because they have a better immune response when they are younger. Vaccination can start as early as age 9.
All children who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart.
If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. If your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over 6 months. Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years.
Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now. You can also visit the HPV Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.
HPV vaccine is also recommended for people aged 27 through 45 years in certain circumstances.
- Some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination for them.
- HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, because more people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV.
If you are aged 27 through 45 years old, talk to your healthcare professional to find out if you should get HPV vaccine.
Remember, boys need HPV vaccine, too. Here’s why.
Every year in the United States around 12,000 men get cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV infections that don’t go away can cause cancers of the anus and rectum, mouth/throat (oropharynx), and penis in men. Oropharyngeal cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related cancer.
Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat are on the rise. Unlike cervical cancer, there are no screening tests for these cancers, so they are often caught at a later stage when they are more difficult to treat.
Many of the cancers caused by HPV infection in both men and women could be prevented by HPV vaccination.
Massachusetts Partners in HPV Education and Prevention
- The Massachusetts HPV Coalition brings together many partners to reduce the incidence of HPV and HPV-related cancer by highlighting the connection between HPV and cancer. The Coalition members also coordinate efforts to increase statewide HPV vaccination rates. Membership is open to any person, organization, nonprofit, or institution interested in work surrounding HPV. The Massachusetts Oral HPV Prevention Taskforce, which is a subset of the larger HPV Coalition, aims to educate the dental community about the connection between HPV and HPV-related cancers. They created the Dental Toolkit to provide dental professionals resources to encourage, and prepare, them for conversations with patients about HPV-related cancer and the HPV vaccine as a cancer prevention tool.
- The Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC) is a program in the Division of Child and Adolescent Health at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) that introduces high school students to careers in health and public health. In 2016, the BPHC was awarded a grant to implement a service-learning program to increase HPV vaccination rates among students at eight school-based health centers. Twenty-five Boston public high school students were recruited to the HPV Youth Ambassadors Project. The ambassadors created a public service announcement (PSA) designed to encourage young men of color to receive the HPV vaccination. The theme of the PSA focuses on the concepts of gender norms, goal-attainment and achievement. This PSA is a powerful and unique approach to empower youth to advocate for HPV vaccination and improved health within their communities.
- Team Maureen, a cervical cancer advocacy organization, in conjunction with Cape Cod Health Care, the Falmouth Hospital Cancer Committee, and Brian Switzer, released this video discussing the importance of getting the HPV vaccine at 11 - 12 years old.