Cancers related to HPV, a very common virus, are on the rise affecting a younger population aged 25 to 50. The Center for Disease Control estimates 79 million American men and women are currently infected with HPV. In fact, it’s so common the CDC believes “nearly all of sexually active adults get the virus at some point in their lives.”
The virus is transmitted by intimate skin to skin contact and, in most cases, goes away on its own without causing health problems. But in some cases, cancer of the mouth, throat, cervix and others can occur with about 34,800 new cases each year. Complicating the HPV problem is this: only one of the six cancers caused by HPV are screened regularly. Oral, throat, and anal cancers do not have the same standard (or routine) screening as cervical cancer. Screening occurs before symptoms have surfaced and it’s an important tool in fighting cancer.
There’s a solution to this problem. It begins with a remarkably effective vaccine that actually blocks the virus and prevents cancer.* "This vaccine is the best way to protect our youth from developing cancers caused by HPV infection," says CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Here’s how we prevent 6 cancers:
- Vaccinate everyone by the age of 11-12. In fact, evidence now shows there is some benefit to vaccinating adults until age 45.
- Pediatricians strongly recommend the vaccine for children, and parents need to opt in to prevent cancer.
- Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended for all persons through age 26 years who are not adequately vaccinated.
- Develop a system to screen for HPV-related cancers. Currently the best screening for oral cancer comes from your dentist. Ask for a screening every year. But there are other cancers related to HPV infection and we need to screen for them as well.
On a personal level, take control of your health.
- Know the benefits of using condoms correctly and consistently.
- Reduce the number of sexual partners, it lowers risk of infection.
- Understand the role oral sex plays in the spread of HPV.
- And as with all cancer prevention, taking good care of your personal health can make a difference.
Though proven safe we have failed to protect our population through vaccination. The WI Comprehensive Cancer Control Program reports as of December 2019 less than half of Wisconsin teens are fully protected. We’re falling dramatically short of Wisconsin’s goal to vaccinate 80% of all boys and girls by the age of 13 with just 35-37% of all kids vaccinated. That’s not enough to protect the next generation from the 6 types of cancer we know are HPV-related.