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The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection – nearly 43 million Americans are currently infected with the types of the virus known to cause disease, and about 13 million people get a new HPV infection every year.

Although most HPV infections go away within two years and do not cause cancer, some “high-risk” types persist for many years. These types can lead to cell changes that may progress to cancer, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and head and neck.

Eliminating the Risk

HPV infection causes about 5% of all cancers worldwide. There are several ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV, and ultimately, prevent cancer.

Get Screened. Nine out of 10 cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. The Pap detects abnormal, precancerous cells so they can be treated before they become cancer. The HPV test detects the presence of human papillomavirus. Unfortunately, there are currently no screening tests for other types of cancers caused by HPV.

Get Vaccinated. The HPV vaccine prevents cancer by protecting against the most common types of HPV that cause cancer. The vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 9 to 26. Adults between 27 and 45 who have not previously been vaccinated are also eligible.

“It is very encouraging that as a scientific and medical community, we continue to look for new ways to extend the public health benefit of the HPV vaccine to a broader segment of the population.  While most adults have been exposed to HPV, it is unlikely that they were exposed to all 9 types of HPV that the vaccine protects against. Thus, there are continued opportunities for health benefits from receiving the vaccine after age 27,” said Dr. Susan Vadaparampil, associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement & Equity.

During HPV Prevention Week and leading up to International Human Papillomavirus Awareness Day, we join organizations worldwide in promoting awareness and education about HPV and the cancers that can be prevented through vaccination. Please join the conversation using the hashtag #AskAboutHPV to spread the word.

For more information on HPV and HPV vaccines, visit the CDC website.