HPV Vaccine Protects Against Six Types of Cancer, But Is Underused
May 02, 2022
A vaccine that prevents thousands of cancer cases a year is not getting into enough arms.
Vaccination rates fell sharply during the pandemic, including vaccinations against human papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine is recommended for kids 11 to 12 to prevent HPV, which is linked cervical, oral, vaginal, vulvar, anal and penile cancers.
About 90 percent of new cervical cancers are caused by HPV.
Vaccination rates lagged even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Only about 54 percent of adolescents were up to date on the HPV vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those numbers have declined since the pandemic, says Douglas Fleck, MD, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s.
“Vaccinating your kids will protect them from getting cancers in the future,” Dr. Fleck says.
“HPV vaccination is highly effective. If vaccination rates do not rise, there will be an increase in cancers and patient deaths over the next decades.”
About 36,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer every year. Cancers of the tongue and tonsils are now the most common HPV-related cancers and affect more men than women, Dr. Fleck says.
An estimated 80 million Americans are infected with the virus.
The HPV vaccine is given in two doses, or three if you wait to vaccinate your child until age 15 or older. It’s most effective if given long before kids become sexually active.
The U.S. has recommended routine HPV vaccination for females since 2006, and for males since 2011.
The vaccine is considered one of the greatest breakthroughs in cancer prevention.
“It’s safe and provides long-lasting protection against HPV,” Dr. Fleck says.
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has the region’s largest coordinated network of pediatric primary care providers, committed to delivering the very best care to children of all ages. Learn more about pediatric care at UH Rainbow or find a pediatric practice near you.
The HPV Vaccine prevents about 30 percent of cancers in adults. Watch as John Letterio, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospitals explains how this vaccine is a form of immunotherapy and will allow us to eradicate many HPV-related cancers in our lifetime.