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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Cancer

HPV virus


Fast Facts:
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cancer
  • HPV-related cancers are largely preventable
  • Childhood vaccines are the best way to prevent HPV-related cancers later in life


What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that can cause six different types of cancer. In the US, about one in four people are currently infected with the virus and about 35,000 people are affected by a cancer caused by HPV infection each year. HPV infection can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and cancers of the mouth and back of the throat. While there is screening to detect early signs of cervical cancer, there are no recommended screenings for the other types of cancers caused by HPV.1 To learn more about cervical cancer click HERE.

There are many different types of HPV that include high-risk and low-risk types. The HPV vaccine covers 7 different high-risk HPV types and 2 different low-risk types.

  • Low-risk HPV types rarely cause cancer but can cause warts around the genitals and anus in men and women.
  • High-risk HPV types can cause cancer in men and women. The most common high-risk types are HPV 16 and 18. The infections caused by high risk HPV can cause abnormal cell changes that can develop into cancer over time. In most people, the body can clear the infection without any treatment, but if the virus doesn’t go away, there is a risk that cancer will occur.3
  • Cervical cancer is the most common cancer associated with HPV infections. About 91% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.4 Cervical cancer can be detected early with routine screening. To learn more about cervical cancer click HERE.
  • Vulvar cancers in women are caused by HPV infection in about 70% of cases.4 The vulva is the outer part of the female genital organs.
  • Vaginal cancers in women are caused by HPV infection in about 75% of cases.4
  • Penile cancers in men are caused by HPV in about 63% of cases.4 It is more common in men with HIV and men who have sex with men.
  • Anal cancer can be caused by HPV in men and women in about 91% of cases.4
  • Oropharyngeal cancers include those found in the mouth and throat. About 70% of these cancers are due to HPV.4

Number of Cancers Linked with HPV Each Year:

The HPV vaccine is safe and effective for boys and girls.5
The HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus and it is not infectious. The vaccine does not cause HPV infection or cancer.5

Over 135 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States. The safety of the HPV vaccine has been monitored for over 15 years, with no serious safety concerns identified. The most common side effects of the vaccine include pain, redness or swelling where the shot is given. Other side effects include dizziness, fainting, nausea and headache. Fainting after the vaccine is given is more common among adolescents. To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, anyone getting the HPV vaccine should be seated or lying down when getting the vaccine and remain in that position for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given. The benefits of getting the HPV vaccine far outweigh any potential risk of side effects.5

The HPV vaccine is effective and long-lasting. Since the HPV vaccine was introduced, infections with HPV types that cause cancers and genital warts dropped 88% in teenage girls. Studies show that the protection from the vaccine is very high even after 10 years.5

Studies have shown that getting the HPV vaccine does not increase the risk for earlier sexual activity.6

For more information about HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness click HERE.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between 11-12 years old7
The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls. The best age to get the vaccine is between the ages of 11-12, as that is the age in which the vaccine will result in a stronger (more protective) immune response. However, the vaccine can be given as early as 9 years old. For children who start the vaccine between the ages of 9-14, two doses, 6-12 months apart, will be necessary.

The HPV vaccine can be given at the same time as Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and Meningococcal vaccines recommended between ages 11-12.

It is recommended that any child or young adult aged 13-26 years who has not yet been vaccinated get the vaccine as soon as possible. If the first dose of the vaccine is started at or after age 15, three doses of the vaccine are needed.

The vaccine is also approved for adults aged 27-45. Unvaccinated adults between the ages 27-45 should ask their primary care provider whether the HPV vaccine would be beneficial to them.

The dosing schedule depends on when you start the vaccine series.

Ages 9-14 2 doses 6-12 months apart
Ages 15-45 3 doses 1st dose at visit one
2nd dose 1-2 months later
3rd dose 6 months after 1st dose

For more information on HPV vaccine recommendations, please visit: CDC Guidelines:


Where Can I Get the HPV Vaccine?

Ask your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine at your next visit. If you do not have insurance or if the vaccine is not covered by insurance, contact the following programs:

More Resources:

HPV Vaccine information sheets:
American Cancer Society HPV Vaccine and Cancer Prevention Flyers:

CDC HPV Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness:

General Information:

CDC, 2019. Human Papilloma Vaccination for Adults: Updated Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR, August 16, 2019/68(32);698-702.<./p>

American Cancer Society:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:


  1. Centers for Disease Control. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination and Cancer Prevention. March 17, 2020
  2. President’s Cancer Panel, 2018. The Current Landscape of HPV Cancers and HPV Vaccination. November.
  3. American Cancer Society. HPV and Cancer. July 2020.
  4. Centers for Disease Control. How Many Cancers Are Linked with HPV each Year? September 3, 2020.
  5. Centers for Disease Control. HPV Vaccination is Safe and Effective. July 23, 2021.
  6. Brouwer, A.F., Delinger, R.L, Eisenberg, M.C., Campredon, L.P., Walline, H.M., Carey, T.E., and Meza, R., 2019. HPV vaccination has not increased sexual activity or accelerated sexual debut in a college-aged cohort of men and women. BMC Public Health, V. 19; June 25, 2019. sexual activity
  7. New York State Department of Health. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine.


November 2021

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