One Injection of HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Many Cancers

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Many of the more than 150 strains of Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV) are relatively harmless, but about 15 are classified as high-risk types because they can cause cancer and other health problems. A single dose of the vaccine for types 16, 18 and the other high-risk types of HPV appears to provide at least eight years of protection against these infections (The Lancet Regional Western Pacific, Aug 2023;37:100798). These viruses are the most common cause of cancers of the cervix and other parts of the uterus, as well as of the penis, anus, throat, vagina and vulva (Current Oncology Reports, 2014;16(9):1-11; J Infect Dis, 2011;204(4):566-573). Even though 2-3 doses of the vaccine are usually given, other studies have shown that a single dose of the vaccine is highly effective (Lancet, 2017; 390: 2143-2159) and can provide about 14 years of protection (Vaccine, 2018; 36: 6373-6378; J Infect Dis, 2020; 221: 910-918). Worldwide, about 80 percent of people will be infected with HPV (Sex Transm Dis, 2014 Nov; 41(11): 660-664). Cancer of the cervix, caused by HPV, is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in women (Cytojournal, Mar 29, 2022;19:21).

Vaccine Before Puberty
To be protected, you have to get the vaccine before you are infected. There is no natural immunity to these viruses, and just about everyone who is exposed to an HPV will become infected. Most HPVs will clear within a year or two with no treatment, but some of them can stay in your tissues for your lifetime, damage your DNA and cause cancer. However, if you get the vaccine before you are infected for the first time by HPVs, you can be protected from these infections. That is why current recommendations are for children to get the vaccine before they reach puberty. Once a person is infected, the vaccine will not offer protection. It is frightening that today, fewer than 13 percent of girls are protected by HPV vaccination.

My Recommendations
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventiom (CDC) report that one in five adults are carrying a transmissible venereal disease. Every sexual experience with a new partner puts you at risk for acquiring a venereal disease, some of which are proven causes of cancers. The most common cancer-causing venereal diseases are the HPVs, and both men and women can be protected for many years by a single dose of the HPV vaccine.

However, the vaccine will not protect you after you have been infected with these viruses. The CDC recommends routine vaccination at ages 11 or 12. It can be started at age 9, and given to anyone under 26 who has not been adequately vaccinated earlier. By age 26 most people have been exposed to HPVs, but older people can be vaccinated if they feel that it is unlikely that they have been exposed.