You've probably heard that a new
HPV vaccine can protect women
against cervical cancer. In fact, the
vaccine may be most effective when given to girls and young women. Is the HPV
vaccine something you should consider for your daughter? Is this vaccine safe?
When should girls receive the shots, and are there any drawbacks
Learn more about how this major
medical breakthrough can benefit your daughter.
What Is HPV?
HPV refers to a group of viruses
called human papillomavirus. Genital HPV is the most common sexually
transmitted infection in the United States. Just how widespread is this virus?
Take a look at these infection rates for U.S. females:
Ages 14-19: 25% have been
infected with HPV.
Ages 20-24: 45% have been
infected with HPV.
Data from the 2003-2004 National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that one in
four female adolescents in the U.S. has at least one of the most common
sexually transmitted infections. According to the CDC, the most common STD was
HPV (18%), followed by chlamydia (4%). Among the teen girls that had an STD,
15% had more than one.
How Is HPV
HPV is transmitted during genital
skin-to-skin sexual contact. This includes vaginal or anal sex and possibly
oral sex. A person can get HPV even if years have passed since he or she had
The Connection between HPV and
There are many types or strains of
HPV. Most types do not cause cervical cancer. However, certain strains of HPV
are more likely to lead to the disease.
For example, one study found four
cervical cancer-causing HPV
types in 3.4% of women studied. If that rate of infection is true for all
women in the United States, then about 3.1 million U.S. females may now be
infected with these four HPV types. These women are at risk of developing
In 2007, the United States will
have about 11,150 new cases of cervical cancer, and 3,670 women will die from
this cancer, the American Cancer Society estimates.
What Are the Benefits of the
The main benefit of the vaccine is
protection from cervical cancer.
Two HPV vaccines are currently on
the market: Gardasil and Cervarix. In 2006, the FDA licensed Gardasil, the
first cervical cancer vaccine. In 2007 Cervarix was approved. However, they
don't protect against all types of cancer-causing HPV. Vaccines protect against
these four types of HPV:
These types are responsible for
70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.
Has your daughter already been
infected with one of these HPV strains? If so, receiving the vaccine won't
prevent disease from that particular type. However, the HPV vaccine will
protect against infection from the other HPV strains included in the