Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer in women, anal cancer in men and genital warts in both men and women. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is usually asymptomatic.
There are currently 2 vaccines available in the United States to protect against HPV: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. Gardasil® protects against HPV types 16, 18, 6 and 11. Cervarix® protects against types 16 and 18. Types 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers and types 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital warts. The Gardasil® vaccine is available for males and females 9-26 years of age, although the CDC recommends initiating the vaccine between ages 11-12 years. Cervarix® is available for females age 9-25 years.
Some parents who are approached about the vaccine express concern that their child will be more likely to become sexually active or engage in more risky behaviors. A recent study released from Georgia goes against this theory. Researchers found that girls who have received the HPV vaccine were not more likely to become pregnant or acquire a sexually transmitted infection. Nonetheless, it is estimated that only about 50% of girls in the United States receive the Gardasil vaccine.
Regardless of vaccination status, it is currently not recommended that adolescents be screened for HPV. Cytological screening for cervical cancer is recommended for women beginning at age 21.
Currently there is no HPV test recommended for men.