Did you know that the human papillomavirus (HPV) infects about 14 million people—including teenagers—each year? Or that HPV infections cause nearly 31,000 cancers a year? The good news, though, is that the HPV vaccine can prevent most of those cancers from occurring in the first place.
Some background: Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. In fact, most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. The problem, though, is that in some cases an HPV infection can last far longer, causing:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women
- cancers of the penis in men
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils in both women and men
That’s why the HPV vaccine is so important. It’s recommended for young people beginning at age 11 or 12, with two shots given six to 12 months apart. If the young person is older than 14 years old, three shots need to be given over six months.
But the HPV vaccine isn’t just for teenagers. It is also recommended for young women through age 26 and young men through age 21—and older people, too, depending on your likelihood to engage in sex with a person who may be infected.
When it comes to protection from HPV infection, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider who can recommend what’s best for your loved ones—and for you. <END>