About HPV

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common virus that can lead to 6 types of cancers later in life. You can protect your child from developing these cancers by giving HPV vaccine at ages 11–12 years.

HPV infections are common

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HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.

Some HPV infections can lead to cancer

Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within 2 years. But sometimes, HPV infections will last longer and can cause certain types of cancers. HPV infections can cause cancers of the:

  • cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • penis in men; and
  • anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.

Every year in the United States, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 36,000 cases of cancer in men and women.

Prevent cancer with the HPV vaccine

CDC recommends children get two doses of HPV vaccine at ages 11–12 years. HPV vaccination can be started at age 9 years. For HPV vaccine to be most effective, the series should be given before children are ever exposed to the virus.

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Children who get the first dose before their 15th birthday only need two doses. Children who get the first dose on or after their 15th birthday need three doses.