Updated 31 March 2015.
Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA. There are more than 40 HPV sub-types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. Additionally, some HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
HPV and cancer
HPV is linked to cancers in men and women, and because there are so many subtypes, research has established which HPV types are linked to certain cancers.
- Cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers can be caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
- Genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11. Although genital warts are generally benign (though unsightly), there is a small chance they develop into cancers.
- Various precancerous lesions of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus can be caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58
- Oropharyngeal and penile cancers are caused by subtypes 16 and 18.
HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous with regards to cancer as tobacco. According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. About 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.
The original HPV quadrivalent vaccine, known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), can prevent infection by human papillomavirus, substantially reducing the risk of these types of cancers. An HPV bivalent vaccine, known as Cervarix, is used in some countries, but only provides protection again two of the subtypes most associated with cervical cancer.
The new version of Gardasil, recently cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration, protects teens and young adults from 9 subtypes of HPV, helping prevent more cancers. It should really be called the Gardasil cancer prevention vaccine.
According to the package insert, Gardasil 9 is indicated in females aged 9-26 years for the prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancer caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58; genital warts caused by types 6 and 11; and various precancerous or dysplastic lesions of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus caused by types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. The vaccine is also indicated in males aged nine through 15 years for the prevention of anal cancer caused by types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58; genital warts caused by types 6 and 11; and anal intraepithelial neoplasia grades 1, 2, and 3 caused by types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
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The FDA approval is based on data from a randomized, controlled study (to be published soon) in the U.S. involving approximately 14000 females aged 16 to 26, all testing negative for HPV at the start of the study.
The study found that the new vaccine was approximately 97% effective in preventing infection from the additional five HPV types, while still equally effective to the current Gardasil in preventing the original four types, based on participants’ antibody responses. An additional 1200 males and 2800 females, aged 9 to 15, showed similar antibody responses as the older participants in the trials–researchers concluded that the new Gardasil vaccine should provide similar effectiveness as the older one to the original 4 HPV subtypes.
Safety data on Gardasil 9 is based on adverse reactions tracked in more than 13,000 males and females. Headaches and swelling, redness and pain at the injection site were the ones most commonly reported. Among these participants, five individuals reported serious adverse events that were determined to be vaccine-related. These events included fever, allergy to the vaccine, asthmatic crisis, headache and tonsillitis. These adverse events are common to vaccinations, especially if an individual is allergic to one or more of the ingredients.
Currently in the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that preteen girls and boys aged 11 or 12 are vaccinated against HPV. The immunization is also recommended for teenage girls and young women up to the age of 26 who did not receive it when they were younger, and teenage boys and young men up to the age of 21. Officially, the CDC will not make a formal recommendation for the use of the new Gardasil until ACIP issues new recommendations in a few months.
A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how to actually prevent cancers. There are no magical panaceas that prevent any of the 250 or so cancers. There’s no magical supplement or pill. There are just a few ways to prevent cancers–stop smoking, stay out of the sun, lose weight, avoid radiation, and get the HPV vaccine.
Gardasil prevents at least 6 types of cancer, and that’s better than all the “natural” supplements that you could consume.
Gardasil Prevents Cancer.
If you need to search for scientific information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.