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HPV vaccination can prevent cancer: Here's what you need to know

HPV vaccination can prevent cancer: Here's what you need to know

By Intermountain Healthcare

Jul 9, 2020

Updated Nov 17, 2023

5 min read

HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer

About HPV

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a group of more than 150 related viruses that can cause warts (or papillomas) and cancer — which affects more than 33,000 Americans annually. HPV infections can cause these kinds of cancers:

  • Men and women can get cancer of the mouth, throat, and anus/rectum 
  • Women can get cancer of the cervix, vagina, and vulva
  • Men can get cancer of the penis 

HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys starting at age 9 in order to provide the best protection against HPV infections and HPV cancers. 

It’s best to start the vaccine before becoming sexually active or before close skin-to-skin genital contact, since the treatment only works to prevent HPV, not to cure the infection. Talk with your provider to decide the best option for you or your child. 

How many cancers are linked with HPV each year?

Each year, about 44,000 new cases of cancer are found in parts of the body where human papillomavirus is often found. HPV causes about 34,800 of these cancers.

What are the signs and symptoms of HPV?

Scientists have identified more than 100 types of HPV. Forty infect the cervix and 15 cause cervical cancer. Because there are so many types, HPV infections are classified on a scale between high and low risk. If you become infected with HPV, your provider will give you further information to help you understand more about your or your child’s HPV type. 

Most people infected with HPV don’t experience signs or symptoms and usually never develop any problems from the infection. But it’s important to follow your provider’s recommendations for regular check-ups. 

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine helps keep people from getting infected with HPV. It may also prevent mouth, throat, cervical, penile, and anal cancers. The vaccine doesn’t prevent any other types of sexually transmitted infections. Like other vaccines, it can help prevent infection and certain cancer types, but doesn’t cure HPV in patients who’ve already acquired the disease. 

HPV vaccine safety

Over 12 years of monitoring and research have shown that HPV vaccination is very safe. Each HPV vaccine went through years of extensive safety testing before it was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA only licenses a vaccine if it’s safe, effective, and offers benefits that outweigh its risks. 

With all approved vaccines, the CDC and FDA closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines after they’re licensed. Any safety concerns related to these vaccines are reported to health officials, healthcare professionals, and the public. 

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

Boys and girls should get the vaccine between ages 9-26. For those who are 15 years and older, treatment consists of three vaccines over six months. Children younger than 15 receive two vaccines six months apart. 

Where can my child get vaccinated?

Usually, your child's healthcare provider can administer the vaccine during a scheduled office visit. Talk with your child's medical provider about options to receive the HPV vaccine.

What are the side-effects of the HPV vaccine?

Side-effects are minimal, but the injection may cause redness, swelling, or soreness at the site of the injection. Also, in rare cases it can cause the patient to pass out. 

Learn more about the HPV vaccine