With 80 million Americans, or 1 in 4, infected by human papillomavirus (HPV), it’s a very common virus. It’s so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will be infected at some point in their lives. HPV is often associated with cervical cancer, but it can also lead to a host of other cancers in women and men. And with a recent rise in HPV cancers, it’s important to take steps to prevent it.
HPV is a group of more than 150 viruses, which can cause warts and also lead to certain cancers, especially cervical cancer. It’s transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and is the most common among sexually transmitted infections. Anyone who has ever been sexually active is at risk, regardless of the number of partners. It can have no signs or symptoms, and you may not realize you’ve contracted it for years. Many people who become infected with HPV never get cancer – their bodies simply fight the virus. Some people do eventually develop an HPV-related cancer. A recent report by the government shows 11,700 new cases of cervical cancer in women and more than 12,600 cases of oral cancer among men.
The HPV vaccine is the most effective way to protect against HPV infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pre-teens age 11-12 receive the HPV vaccine to be protected from the virus. It’s also extremely important that young adults, up to age 26, receive the vaccination. HPV vaccines are both safe and effective and can prevent up to 90 percent of cervical cancers.
Even with the research showing the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, many teens do not receive the vaccine, which is delivered in three doses. Just 60 percent of adolescent girls ages 13-17 received one dose, while only 40 percent received all three. The vaccination rate among boys was even lower, with 42 percent receiving one dose and only 22 percent receiving all three doses.
HPV cancers are highly preventable with the full vaccination dosage. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s Healthy You! wellness benefit provides coverage for the vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost for covered members.
Learn more about the CDC’s findings on HPV-related cancers and find answers to some common questions about HPV in the HPV and Cancer section of the agency’s website.