The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of HPV. HPV can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
HPV has also been linked to other kinds of cancers, including vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers.
HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are several types of HPV. Many types don't cause problems. However, some types of HPV can cause cancers of the:
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. Other less common types of HPV can also cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine does not treat cervical cancer.
WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE
The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls 9 through 14 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for people up to 26 years old who haven't already gotten the vaccine or finished the series of shots.
Certain people between the ages of 27-45 may be candidates for the vaccine. Talk to your health care provider if you think you are a candidate in this age group.
The vaccine can offer protection against HPV-related cancers in any age group. Certain people who may have new sexual contacts in the future and could be exposed to HPV should also consider the vaccine.
HPV vaccine is given as a 2-dose series to boys and girls 9 through 14 years old:
The vaccine is given as a 3-dose series to people 15 through 26 years old, and to those who have weakened immune systems:
Pregnant women should not receive this vaccine. However, there have been no problems found in women who received the vaccine during pregnancy before they knew they were pregnant.
WHAT ELSE TO THINK ABOUT
The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Girls and women should still receive regular screening (Pap test) to look for precancerous changes and early signs of cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine does not protect against other infections that can be spread during sexual contact.
Talk to your provider if:
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.