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The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine provides protection against four major types of HPV, two of which cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. As such, the HPV vaccine plays an important role in cervical cancer prevention.

While many people are aware that the HPV vaccine is currently recommended for preteens, some might wonder whether adults can benefit as well. For general informational purposes, Moffitt Cancer Center has provided answers to some frequently asked questions below.

Why is the HPV vaccine recommended specifically for preteens?

To help ensure maximum effectiveness, the HPV vaccine should be administered prior to HPV exposure. Therefore, an individual should receive all recommended doses before engaging in any type of sexual activity. Toward that end, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommend that all children receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. The doses should be spaced 6-12 months apart. Children who receive their two shots less than five months apart should receive a third dose.

Is it ever too late to receive the HPV vaccine?

An HPV infection usually occurs during an individual’s first few sexual encounters. But, the optimal time to receive the HPV vaccine is determined based on a person’s age rather than his or her sexual experience. Even if an individual has previously engaged in sexual activities, he or she may not have been exposed to all forms of HPV that the vaccine protects against. Therefore, it is never too late to be vaccinated.

With that said, the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine have not yet been fully evaluated in adults older than 26. Therefore, pending the results of further research, administration after age 26 is not recommended.

If you have further questions about the HPV vaccine or cervical cancer prevention, you are encouraged to talk with an oncologist in the gynecological clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center. You can request an appointment with or without a referral by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online.