Americans Have Power to Slow Spread of Cancer Causing Virus

Human papillomavirus vaccine must be priority for all preteen kids

DAYTON, Ohio (December 1, 2014) – Vaccines created for the human papillomavirus (HPV) give Americans the power to slow the spread of one of the most commonly contracted viruses that can cause cancer.

HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted virus in the United States. Nearly 80 million Americans are infected with HPV, with another 14 million more expected to be infected each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   (CDC). There are more than 40 different types of HPV, and a specific few can cause various cancers including cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, vaginal and penile.  

The virus’s prevalence and potential danger can seem alarming – especially for those who become diagnosed with the virus. But one gynecologic oncologist said fear is often unnecessary.

“It is important when we talk about HPV that we work to educate patients in order to help lessen any hysteria around the virus and what it can cause,” said Christopher Lutman, MD, a physician with Premier Gynecologic Oncology, a Premier Health Specialists' practice. “Millions of people around the globe will come in contact with HPV at some point in their lives, yet most HPV infections won’t ever show manifestations of the disease.”

HPV is so common, according to the CDC, that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of the virus at some point in their lives. How the virus will manifest itself varies in each person. HPV may cause genital warts for one person while another individual may never know they carry the virus. 

Dr. Lutman said most forms of HPV will go away within two years thanks to the work of a person’s own immune system – as long as the immune system has not been compromised through a pre-existing condition. But for thousands of Americans each year, HPV will become something more serious. The CDC estimates that 17,500 women and 9,300 men will be affected by cancers caused by HPV. 

The HPV vaccine provides nearly 100 percent protection against pre-cancers and genital warts. Since the vaccine was first introduced in 2006, studies have shown a 56 percent reduction of the virus among teen girls in the United States, the CDC said.

“Most people with HPV who have a normal immune system do not end up getting cancer from the virus, but it is certainly a huge problem with respect to warts and abnormal pap smears and it is a huge global cost burden,” Dr. Lutman said. “This is why the vaccines have a potential to help generations to come.”

Thompson HSThe vaccine can be administered to females up to the age of 26 and to men up to the age of 21. However, the optimal time to receive the vaccine is at age 11 or 12 and before one engages in any sexual activity, said Dori Thompson, MD, with Springboro Family Medicine, a Premier HealthNet practice.

“We have found that the best time to discuss the HPV vaccine is when kids come in for their Tdap vaccine, which is required before they can enter seventh grade,” Dr. Thompson said. “There are many reasons why this is a really good age to start this conversation. One of which is we are finding that kids are becoming sexually active much younger than before. If we can get the vaccine in them before they become sexually active then we have given them immunity against the four major types of HPV.”

The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over a seven-month period. Individuals must complete the series to be fully immunized. Dr. Thompson said it is important that individuals know they can still be vaccinated even if they have already engaged in sexual activity. HPV infection usually happens soon after a person has had sex for the first time, but a person may not have been exposed to any or all of the HPV types that are in the vaccine, the CDC said.

Parents need to understand the importance of the vaccine and feel free to discuss any concerns they may have about it with their child’s doctor, Dr. Thompson said.

“This is a virus that can cause life-long genital warts and cervical cancer in women,” Dr. Thompson said. “We have a vaccine that can help prevent cancer – what a wonderful thing. I have to ask people: Why not get it?”

For more information on the HPV vaccine or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit

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