Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

Font Size

What Parents Should Know About the HPV, or Cervical Cancer, Vaccine

Does your daughter need the HPV vaccine to help protect against cervical cancer? Get the latest medical information on the HPV vaccine here.
By
WebMD Feature

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 Spread?

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 sex.

The Connection between HPV and Cervical Cancer

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 cervical cancer.

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 HPV Vaccine?

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:

  • HPV 6
  • HPV 11
  • HPV 16
  • HPV 18

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 shot.

Today on WebMD

HPV Vaccine Future
Article
STD Overview
Slideshow
 
STD Facts Quiz
Quiz
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
Sex Drive Killers
Slideshow
Genital Herpes Risks Quiz
Quiz
 
Young couple holding hands
Quiz
Herpes Vaccine Study
Video
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
HPV Symptoms Tests
Article
 
Get The STD Picture
Feature
cancer cell
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections