All About HPV
Do you understand HPV? If the answer is “maybe” or “no,” you’re not alone: There is a lot of misinformation on the subject of HPV or human papillomavirus, a common infection that can lead to cervical cancer, among other issues. Since 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that teenage girls receive an HPV vaccine, although only about one-third of eligible teens have been vaccinated. While the vaccine is safe, many still have questions about HPV and the vaccine for it. There are actually more than 100 types of HPV, some that produce warts and some that can lead to cervical and other cancers. HPV is spread easily through skin-to-skin contact, and it is very possible to have HPV without knowing it–the majority of sexually active men and women will have some sort of HPV during their lifetime.
While most types of HPV will go away on their own, some types can remain hidden in the body, spurring the development of abnormal cells and increasing the risk of cervical and other types of cancer. Likewise, women who smoke or who have diseases that make fighting infections challenging are at higher risk of cervical cancer. The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12 years as well as teens who haven’t received the vaccine, including women through age 26 and men up to age 21. If you have concerns about HPV or the vaccine, talk to your doctor about the best options for you and your family.