HPV Vaccine for Adults
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that causes cervical cancer in women and genital warts in men and women. The HPV vaccine effectively prevents infection with the HPV types responsible for most cervical cancers and can also prevent genital warts. HPV vaccination is most effective during childhood or adolescence, but adults can also benefit from the HPV vaccine.
Why Adults Should Get the HPV Vaccine
HPV infection is extremely common; most sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in life. HPV infection usually causes no symptoms, but can cause genital warts and anal cancer in both women and men.
In women, HPV infection can cause cells in the cervix to grow abnormally. In a small fraction of women, these HPV-induced changes will develop into cervical cancer. About 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about 4,000 women die from the condition.
The HPV vaccine prevents infection by the HPV types responsible for most cervical cancers. There are three available forms of the HPV vaccine:
- Cervarix: Prevents infection by HPV-16 and HPV-18. These two HPV types cause 70% of all cervical cancers. It is used for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancers.
Gardasil: Prevents infection by HPV-16, HPV-18, and also HPV-6 and HPV-11, the two HPV types that cause 90% of genital warts. It is used to prevent cancers and precancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus.
- Gardasil 9: Prevents infection by the same HPV types as Gardasil, plus HPV-31, HPV-33, HPV-45, HPV-52, and HPV-58. Collectively, these types are implicated in 90% of cervical cancers.
All HPV vaccines are extremely effective at preventing infection by the HPV types they cover. Getting the HPV vaccine reduces a woman’s risk of cervical cancer and precancerous growths substantially. Men cannot develop cervical cancer, but the HPV vaccine may prevent genital warts, anal cancer, and the spread of HPV to sexual partners. Gardasil is approved for males ages 9 through 26 and Gardasil 9 is approved for use in males 9 through 15 years of age.
The HPV vaccine does not treat or cure an HPV infection in women or men who are already infected by one of these HPV types.