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Imagine if you could protect your child against cancer. Turns out, you can – with the HPV vaccine.

What you need to know about HPV and HPV-related cancers

HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.

Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infection can cause:

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancers of the penis in men; and
  • cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.

Every year in the United States, HPV causes around 31,000 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 28,000) from occurring.

Information on HPV Vaccine

The best protection against HPV-related cancers is for boys and girls to get vaccinated early because they have a better immune response when they are younger. Vaccination can start as early as age 9.

All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart.

If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. If your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over 6 months. Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years. Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now. You can also visit the HPV Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

HPV vaccine is also recommended for individuals with certain high risk conditions through age 26. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out if you should get HPV vaccine.

Remember, boys need HPV vaccine, too. Here’s why.

Every year in the United States around 12,000 men get cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV infections that don’t go away can cause cancers of the anus and rectum, mouth/throat (oropharynx), and penis in men. Oropharyngeal cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related cancer.

Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat are on the rise. Unlike cervical cancer, there are no screening tests for these cancers, so they are often caught at a later stage when they are more difficult to treat.

Many of the cancers caused by HPV infection in both men and women could be prevented by HPV vaccination.

The Iowa Department of Public Health recently released a video series entitled HPV Survivor Stories. These individuals serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of the HPV vaccine and underscore the need for all parents to talk to their children’s doctors to learn more.

For more information about HPV and the vaccine, visit www.mass.gov/dph/HPVvax.

Written By:


Immunization Outreach Coordinator in the Bureau of Infectious Disease

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