Because certain high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) may cause cancer, NYU Langone doctors recommend that teens, both male and female, and certain young adults take steps to avoid HPV infection, including getting an HPV vaccine. In recent years, there has been an increase in HPV-related cancers of the throat, tongue, and tonsils.
Vaccines called Gardasil® and Cervarix® protect against infection with certain low-risk and high-risk HPV types. Gardasil helps protect girls and young women against HPV strains that cause genital warts and cancers of the anus, vagina, and vulva. Boys and young men can receive Gardasil to prevent genital warts and certain cancers.
Cervarix helps protect girls and women between the ages of 10 and 25 against the HPV strains that lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer, or precancerous lesions of the cervix. This vaccine does not protect against genital warts caused by HPV. It is not indicated for use in boys or men.
These vaccines are given as a series of three injections over the course of six months. Because neither HPV vaccine is fully effective if a person has already been exposed to HPV, doctors recommend that it be given before sexual activity begins. Vaccination is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and for teenage girls and women under the age of 26 who never received the full vaccine series (though it can be given to girls as young as age 9) and for boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26.
The HPV vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women, people with life-threatening allergic reactions to the ingredients, or people with illnesses that weaken the immune system, such as cancer.
Studies have shown that the vaccines last in the body for at least 10 years without losing effectiveness. Currently, booster shots are not available. Since no vaccine is 100 percent effective, regular cervical cancer screening is recommended.
Cigarette smoking has been linked to HPV-related infections and cancers. Taking steps to quit smoking may help to reduce your risk. Specialists at NYU Langone's Tobacco Cessation Programs can offer support.
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