What Parents Should Know About HPV
HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is an equal opportunity infection, affecting both males and females — most in their teens and early 20s.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and will affect nearly all sexually active men and women in the U.S. at some point in their lives.
CDC statistics indicate that nearly 80 million people — one in four — are infected with HPV in the United States, and about 14 million people, including both male and female teens, become infected with the virus every year.
Although many HPV infections clear up within two years on their own, some persist and can lead to genital warts or cancer, including:
- Cervical cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Penile cancer
- Anal cancer
- Throat cancer
In fact, the CDC estimates that more than 27,000 women and men are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers each year, about two-thirds of whom are women.
The largest HPV-related threat to men is throat cancer, which has grown sharply in the past decade. Researchers estimate that around 2020, HPV-related oral cancers in men will eclipse cervical cancer rates in women.
What about the HPV vaccination?
The HPV vaccination offers the best protection for your child from most of the types of cancers and genital warts caused by HPV. The CDC recommends three vaccine doses for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 before they have sex so they have time to develop an immune response before they begin sexual activity.
Is it safe?
According to the CDC, studies of the HPV vaccine have shown no serious safety concerns.
Reported side effects are mild, and include pain in the arm where the shot was administered, fever, dizziness and nausea. Serious side effects from the vaccine are rare. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration continue to monitor the vaccination.
Research shows that giving the vaccine to teens who are not sexually active does not encourage early sexual activity.