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Jan 15

HPV Vaccine Tied to Dramatic Drop in HPV Virus in Teens; Pediatrics Journal


February 24, 2016


A vaccine for the cancer-causing human papilomavirus, or HPV, has led to a dramatic drop in infections among teenage girls and boys, according to new research. But researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution that many teens are still not getting innoculated, and innoculation rates are dropping.

Within six years of the vaccine's debut in the U.S., prevalence of the virus among girls aged 14-19 has dropped 64%. Young women aged 20-24 saw a drop in infection of 34%. Recommendations for boys to receive the vaccine only began in 2011, so rates of infection in boys are not yet available.

According to Dr. Lauri Markowitz, lead author of the study, "HPV vaccination has the potential to prevent up to 3 out of 4 HPV-associated cancers." Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by high-risk strains of HPV, and about 95% of anal cancers. The latest HPV vaccine covers nine high-risk HPV strains which are associated with cancers. 

In other countries where the vaccine is required or offerred in schools, drops in infection were greater. Rwanda has seen a drop of 93%; Australia has seen a 92% drop.

In the U.S., the vaccine is largely optional. Vaccination rates are dropping as many parents may be uncomfortable with HPVs connection to sexual activity.

Researchers stress the importance of vaccinating against the virus before teens become sexually active. Last month many cancer centers endorsed the vaccine as an effective tool to prevent types of cancers that result in 27,000 cases each year in the U.S.

The results of this study were published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.