HPV vaccination key in prevention of cancer-causing infections
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, known to cause genital warts and certain types of cancers. It’s recommended that children get two doses of the HPV vaccine starting at ages 11-12, though the earliest vaccination can be started at 9 years old, to help prevent cancer-causing infections. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – In a 2018 U.S. Cancer Statistics data brief, the most recent data shows from 1999 to 2015 that there were approximately 2,725 human papillomavirus-associated cancer cases among the Native American population.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, known to cause genital warts and certain cancers.
“While most HPV infections will go away on their own, the infections that don’t go away can cause certain types of cancer,” states the Centers for Disease Control website.
Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among Native women while oropharyngeal cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among Native men, according to the CDC.
“HPV is made up of a little over 150 viruses. Some of those viruses can cause genital warts or they can cause cancer,” Margie Burkhart, a Cherokee Nation Public Health prevention project specialist, said in a previous Cherokee Phoenix article. “The cancers (can be) in both men and women. They can get mouth cancer, throat cancer, anal and rectum cancer. That’s in both sexes. Men can get penile cancer and in the women, they can get vaginal and cervical cancers from some of the HPV viruses.”
According to the CDC, HPV infections are so common that almost all men and women will have at least one type of HPV in their lives. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected and about 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.
The CDC recommends that children get two doses of the HPV vaccine starting at ages 11-12, though the earliest vaccination can be started at age 9 to help prevent cancer-causing infections.
Children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over six months. “If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to his/her doctor about getting it as soon as possible,” the CDC website states.
Getting the vaccines early protects children before they are exposed to HPV. If a child is not vaccinated, then as teen or young adult, vaccinations are still recommended by the CDC through age 26.
The CDC also states that getting vaccinated is cancer prevention, and while the virus is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women each year in the United States, the vaccinations can prevent more than 32,000 of those cancers from ever developing by preventing the infections that cause them.
Currently, cervical cancer is the only type of HPV cancer that is recommended for screening so that it can be detected at an early state. Other types of HPV cancers might not be detected until they cause health problems.
For information on HPV and vaccinations, visit www.cdc.gov