HPV and Cancer Prevention
By Dr. Christine White, MD, FAAP
July 11, 2017
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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a common virus that causes infections that can lead to genital warts and cancer in both males and females. There are approximately 35,000-associated cancers each year in the United States. That is one person diagnosed every 15 minutes of every day, all year long.

What is HPV?
HPV is the most common STD in the U.S. About 79 million people in the U.S. have the HPV infection, and another 14 million get HPV each year. Half of these new infections are in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24.

Who Can Get Infected with HPV?
Anyone can get HPV once they become sexually active, and most are infected around the time they first become sexually active. You can get HPV even if you only have one lifetime partner. Ninety percent of all people become infected with HPV during their lifetimes.

How Is HPV Spread?
HPV is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, most often from vaginal or anal sex, but also from oral sex or genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be spread even when the person has no symptoms.

Are there Symptoms of HPV infection?
Most people have no symptoms at all. About 360,000 people develop genital warts each year. HPV infections that cause cancer may not become apparent until many years later and may not show symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

What Types of Cancer are caused by HPV infection?
Each year there are approximately 33,200 HPV-associated cancers in the United States. Cervical cancer is the most common for women with 12,000 cases, and 4,000 deaths per year. Oropharyngeal cancer is the most common for men with 13,000 new cases per year. HPV also causes vaginal, vulvar, penile, rectal and anal cancer.

How Is HPV treated?
There is no treatment for the virus itself. The body’s immune system clears HPV on its own within two years in about 90 percent of infections. It is impossible to know which infections will persist and go on to cause health problems.

How Can HPV infection be prevented?
The best way to prevent HPV infection is with a vaccine. Pre-teens, teens and young adults should get the vaccine before they become sexually active. The HPV vaccine works best if given before exposure.

Johnson County Pediatrics offers Gardasil 9 that covers strains 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. These strains cause 90 percent of genital warts and cancers caused by the 40 different strains of HPV.

How Many Doses are Recommended?
If the series is started before the age of 15 years, only two doses are required and can be given six months apart. If the series is started after the age of 15 years, three doses are required at 0, two and six months. The physicians of CMH-JoCoPeds recommend starting the series at age 11, with a booster six months later. The earlier the vaccine is started, the higher the level of protective antibodies.

* Some information contained in the blog came from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Websites with information on HPV:
* www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
* http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/dxc-20199064
* https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-fact-sheet
* https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/index.html