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Eliminating Cervical Cancer with the HPV Vaccine

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD January 18, 2019

Introduction

This Straight, No Chaser post discusses the success of the HPV vaccine in eliminating cervical cancer.

eliminating cervical cancer and hpv with vaccine

In the news is information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It prevents the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that cause genital warts. This is especially important because these warts cause cervical, anal, penile, mouth and throat cancers. Here’s the spoiler alert! The news demonstrates the vaccine is even more effective than originally thought. Eliminating cervical cancer in total may be possible.

A two-thirds reduction already!

Federal researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that existing use of the vaccine has reduced the presence of the virus in teenage girls by approximately two-thirds. This information is especially impressive given the relative novelty and limited use of the vaccine. Only about 40% of girls and 20% of boys between ages 13-17 have been vaccinated. Here is the better news for the future. Public health professionals are making a significant push for greater vaccine use at ages 11-12.  The timing for this is key. Immunization at this time for other childhood diseases has a vaccination rate exceeding 80%.

hpv_vaccine_cancer_prevention

A public health message

Taking the vaccine is not just about preventing a sexually transmitted infection (genital warts). More importantly, it is primarily about cancer prevention. Unfortunately, this message hasn’t fully penetrated the national dialogue. Only the District of Columbia, Rhode Island and Virginia require the HPV vaccine. At this point, it is believed universal use of the vaccine would virtually eradicate cervical cancer. As evidence, several other countries in which HPV vaccine use is mandatory (e.g. Australia) have achieved over 90% reduction in rates of genital warts.

About 14 million Americans become infected with HPV each year. Approximately 27,000 people get cancer as a result of an infection from HPV. Additionally, the American Cancer Society estimates that 4,120 women will die of cervical cancer this year.

If you have a child of either sex, have the conversation with your pediatrician or primary care physician. The HPV vaccine is given as early as age 10. Also, if you’re a female into your mid-twenties and haven’t been vaccinated, you should also discuss this vaccine with your physician. Be encouraged! A simple vaccine can eliminate cervical cancer. Take charge of your health. Reduce the risk. Eliminating cervical cancer is within reach.

Read this post for a general discussion of cervical cancer.

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