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What you need to know about HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) affects everyone. Raising awareness of HPV and learning more about how it is passed on, prevented and managed, can help to eliminate the virus and reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.

What is HPV?

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a group of viruses that affect the skin and parts of the body that have moist membrane (mucosa) linings. There are over 200 different types of HPV and while most viruses are harmless, HPV infections can cause mild to serious health conditions – some can cause warts to form on the skin, while others can increase the risk of developing certain cancers.

HPV infections are common

HPV is a common virus that can lead to 6 types of cancers later in life. HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV and 80% of people will have HPV at some point in their lives.

HPV can lead to cancer

Although most HPV infections go away on their own, infections that don’t go away (persist) can cause changes in the cells and lead to cancer. Cervical cancer is predominantly caused by HPV. While cervical cancer is the most common and well-known HPV cancer, it’s not the only type of cancer HPV infections can cause.

HPV infections can cause:

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancer of the genitals in men;
  • and cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in men and women.

Every year in the United States, 31,500 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection.

HPV vaccination can prevent cancer

Thanks to the HPV vaccine, these types of cancer are preventable. You can protect your child from ever developing these cancers with the HPV vaccine at ages 11–12. HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys (ages 11-12) to protect against cancer-causing HPV infections before they are exposed to the virus. The HPV vaccine is recommended at a young age to ensure children are protected long before they are ever exposed to the virus.

HPV vaccinations are more than 90% effective to prevent initial infection with the HPV types covered in the vaccine and provides good long term protection. HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S. and the HPV vaccination can prevent more than 32,000 of these cancers from ever developing by preventing the infections that cause those cancers.

If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, call 1 (844) 900-WELL and talk to his/her provider about getting it as soon as possible.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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