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Everything to Know About the HPV Vaccination and Why Women Should Consider It

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus (and there are more than 150 types of HPV) which spreads through sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV affects around 80 million people a year, but not everyone with HPV will show symptoms or experience health problems. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who contract the infection will be rid of it within a couple of years, as it will go away on its own.

However, there is a risk of HPV developing into cancer, and it has been linked to a number of different cancers including oropharyngeal cancer, cancer of the anus, and penis, as well as cancers of the vagina, vulva, and cervix in women.

The HPV vaccination is important because it can prevent most of these cancers from developing. But for the vaccine to be able to work well, it needs to be given to individuals who are young, and Cancer.org notes that the ideal age to start the vaccines would be at 11 or 12 years old — these individuals will have a better immune response rate than those who are older.

For the best results, individuals should be vaccinated before coming into contact with the virus, ideally before becoming sexually active. There is also no evidence to suggest that those who have been vaccinated from a young age are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier than their peers who have not been vaccinated, and there is no change in sexual behavior.

“People can contract HPV during their first sexual encounter or their 20th, and they can get it even if they’ve been monogamous and had sex with only one person,” Karen Lui, MD, told RUSH. “It’s so common.”

The CDC recommends the vaccination for young women through to age 26, and young men through to age 21, as well as young adults with “certain immunocompromising conditions” up to age 26. The vaccination is less effective at older ages.

Is it safe?! This is the question that all parents will be asking before taking their child to get the vaccine, but according to Cancer.org, there is nothing to worry about because more than 270 million doses of the vaccine have been given worldwide.

"Risks appear to be modest," William Schaffner, MD, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told WebMD of adults getting the vaccine. "You can get [a] sore arm, but lots of vaccines give you this."

[Image via Shutterstock]

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