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Everything you need to know about HPV

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections are so common that nearly all men and women will contract at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states.

The CDC adds that nearly 80 million people are currently infected with some form of HPV in the United States. About 14 million Americans, including teenagers, are infected each year.

How does it spread

HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “HPV passes easily between sexual partners. It can be transmitted through any intimate skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal–penile sex, penile–anal sex, penile–oral sex, vaginal–oral sex, and use of sex toys or other objects. The infection passes easily between sexual partners. Condoms and dental dams can lower the chance of HPV transmission but do not prevent it completely.”

HPV and Cancer

The CDC reports that most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within 2 years. But sometimes, HPV infections will last longer and can cause some cancers. HPV infections can cause cancers of the:

  • Cervix, vagina, and vulva in women

  • Penis in men

  • Anus in both women and men

  • Back of the throat (called oropharyngeal cancer), including the base of the tongue and tonsils, in both men and women

Every year in the United States, HPV causes about 36,000 cases of cancer in men and women.

Prevent cancer with HPV vaccine

HPV vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP) to prevent new HPV infections and HPV-associated cancers and other diseases.

CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccine at ages 11–12 years. HPV vaccination can be started at age 9 years.

Learn more about the importance of getting an HPV vaccine on the CDC website.

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