(HPV) are a group of more than 100 viruses.
Certain types of HPV can cause
genital warts, which are growths or bumps that appear:
- On the vulva
- In or around the vagina or anus
- On the cervix
- On the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh
Some strains of HPV are linked to
cervical cancer. Although it is less common, some strains are linked to cancers of the vulva,
anus, throat, or penis.
HPV is easily spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner.
Many people will be exposed to a form of HPV at some point in their lives. Not all will become infected or develop symptoms.
The HPV vaccine contains virus-like particles that are not infectious. These particles produce antibodies to prevent HPV from infecting cells. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle.
The vaccine Gardasil protects against four types of HPV strains. It may be used to prevent the following conditions:
Cancers of the cervix,
vagina, vulva, and anus
- Genital warts
- Precancerous lesions on the genitals (in women)
Another vaccine called Cervarix protects against two types of HPV strains. It is used to prevent cervical cancer and cervical precancer in women.
The vaccine is recommended for girls as a 3-dose series between 11 and 12 years old. Girls should be vaccinated before their first sexual contact for the vaccine to be most effective. Girls and women aged 13-26 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
It is recommended that boys receive 3 doses of Gardasil beginning at age 11-12 years. Boys and men aged 13-21 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
Men aged 22-26 years may also be vaccinated. Men in this age group should be vaccinated if they have sex with other men, have HIV infection, or have a weak immune system due to other illnesses or medications.
Research suggests that the vaccine does not appear to cause any serious side effects. Like any vaccine, it has the potential to cause serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Some problems have been associated with the HPV vaccines, like pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. Other potential side effects include:
- Mild to moderate fever
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
Do not get the vaccine if you:
- Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast or any other component of the vaccine.
- Are or may be pregnant.
- Are moderately or severely ill. Wait until you have recovered.
Avoiding physical contact with an infected sexual partner is the only way to completely prevent the spread of a genital HPV infection.
may help reduce the spread. However, condoms are not 100% effective because they do not cover the entire genital area.
Other preventive measures include:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6 million new cases of sexually transmitted HPV infections are reported each year. Twenty million people in the United States are already infected. HPV vaccines cannot treat infections that already exist. The best way to prevent further spread of the disease is to get the vaccine before becoming infected.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Carter JR, Ding Z, et al. HPV infection and cervical disease: a review.
Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011;51(2):103-108.
Heffernan ME, Garland SM, et al. Global reduction of cervical cancer with
human papillomavirus vaccines: insights from the hepatitis B virus vaccine
Sex Health. 2010;7(3):383-390.
HPV vaccine (Cervarix): What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
. Updated May 5, 2011. Accessed May 31, 2013.
HPV vaccine (Gardasil): What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
. Updated May 17, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2013.
Human papillomavirus vaccine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated May 7, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2013.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
. Updated January 29, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2013.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FDA licensure of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4, Gardasil) for use in males and guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2010;59(20):630-632.
Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010.
5/18/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: The FUTURE II Study Group. Quadrivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent high-grade cervical lesions. N Engl J Med . 2007;356:1915-1927.
10/23/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: FDA approves new indication for Gardasil to prevent genital warts in men and boys. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
. Updated April 17, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2013.
1/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 Through 18 years—United States, 2010. MMWR. 2010;58(51&52):1-4.
6/4/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: FDA licensure of bivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV2, Cervarix) for use in females and updated HPV vaccination recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2010;59(20):626-629.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: US Food and Drug Administration. Gardasil approved to prevent anal cancer. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: . Updated April 18, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2013 by David L Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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