COMMENTARY

The First Cervical Cancer Vaccine: Use It

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD

Disclosures

August 22, 2013

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Hello. I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters. The topic: powerful praise for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. A new study from the CDC is a wake-up call to parents to get their kids vaccinated.[1] Here is why it matters.

HPV is linked to cancer, about [17,400] cancers in women and [8800] cancers in men each year.[2]

Unfortunately, HPV infection often occurs at a young age; 79 million Americans, mostly young people in their late teens and early 20s, are infected. An additional 14 million people become infected each year. They don't have to be. The HPV vaccine, the first-ever cervical cancer vaccine that also protects against anal cancer, provides protection from 4 HPV virus strains, 2 of which cause the majority of cancers, including oral cancer.

New CDC data published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases[1] reveal the protecting power and potential of this vaccine. The HPV vaccine has been available since 2006. Three vaccine doses administered over 6 months are FDA approved for males and females ages 9-26. Unfortunately, many are not taking advantage of it. By 2010, only about a third of girls aged 13-17 years had received all 3 doses, although in that short period of only 4 years, the study revealed a 56% drop in vaccine-type HPV prevalence in girls ages 14-19 -- from 11.5% to 5.1%. This steep decline is especially amazing considering the low vaccination coverage rates. Herd immunity may also be a factor. The vaccine effectiveness of at least 1 dose was 82%, so even with suboptimal vaccination coverage rates, the HPV vaccine has been surprisingly successful in lowering HPV infection rates in teenage girls.

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