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Many Americans don't know the facts about HPV

Oct. 9, 2019—How much do you know about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its link to cancer?

If you're like most American adults, you could know a little more. According to a review of data from the National Cancer Institute, two-thirds of men and one-third of women ages 18 to 26 don't know that HPV causes cervical cancer. And 70% of U.S. adults don't know that HPV can cause oral, anal and penile cancers as well.

What is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. There are many different types of HPV. Most are harmless. They disappear over time on their own and don't cause health problems.

But some types of HPV can cause genital warts and cancer. In fact, almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

The power of prevention

There is a vaccine that can help prevent HPV infection. But according to the study, only about half of those it's recommended for have received it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all boys and girls get the vaccine at ages 11 to 12. Why so early? Because HPV is so common, it's best to get the vaccine early so that it can be fully effective before young people are ever exposed to HPV.

But people who didn't get their HPV shots on schedule can still get them later. The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone up to age 26 who hasn't been vaccinated already.

Some people may be able to get the vaccine up to age 45. But because more people have been exposed to HPV by then, there's less benefit for that age group. To know what's right for you, it's best to talk to your doctor about your risk.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

What parents should know

Learn more about the HPV vaccine and how it can help protect your child from cancer.

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