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April 2021

Give Your Daughter a Shot Against Cancer with the HPV Vaccine

From heartbreak to self-doubt to body changes, growing up comes with its share of challenges. Try as you might, you can’t always shield your tween or teen daughter from them.

But a new study confirms one way to keep her safe—for years to come. Get her vaccinated against HPV, or human papillomavirus. This may slash her risk of developing cervical cancer by up to 88%.

HPV: A common threat

About 8 in 10 people will eventually be exposed to HPV. It’s one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Often, people don’t even know they have it.

That’s a problem. HPV infections can cause cancer in a woman’s cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, and throat. In fact, more than 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV. The virus causes more than 21,000 cases of cancer in women each year.

Shots provide effective protection

Healthcare providers already knew HPV vaccines were highly effective in fighting the virus and these cancers. The new study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, provides added evidence.

Scientists studied more than 1.6 million Swedish girls and women from as young as age 10 through their 31st birthday. For every 100,000 women, 94 who weren’t vaccinated developed cervical cancer. The vaccine cut that number to 47.

Starting young has benefits

Providers recommend 2 to 3 doses of the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys. Boys can develop anal, throat, and penile cancers from HPV. Men and women can get the shots as late as age 26.

But the earlier, the better, since younger immune systems make more virus-fighting antibodies from the vaccine. In the study, only four in 100,000 women who’d started vaccination before age 17 went on to develop cancer.          

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends girls and boys get the shots at age 11 or 12. Some parents worry this encourages sexual activity. Studies dispute this—but an open discussion with your child and the pediatrician can address your concerns.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rina Lazebnik, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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