University of Colorado Cancer Center joins national effort to increase use of HPV vaccine

UPDATE: January 11, 2017 The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) The CDC now recommends that 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls receive two doses of the 9-valent HPV vaccine at least six months apart. This vaccine schedule is equally effective in preventing HPV infection and makes it easier for both parents and providers. As the vaccine is more effective the earlier it is given, the CDC recommends that young men and women aged 15 to 26 still receive three doses. Read the updated HPV Consensus Statement .

The University of Colorado Cancer Center joined dozens of cancer centers across the country encouraging the use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for prevention of cancer. Sixty-nine cancer centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute released a joint statement saying the vaccine is the best defense against HPV infections and the cancers they cause.

Certain types of HPV cause most cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers. There are approximately 27,000 cases of HPV associated cancers diagnosed each year.

“Vice President Biden’s ‘moonshot’ to cure cancer has generated attention in recent weeks,” said Dan Theodorescu, director of CU Cancer Center. “Some of these cancers we can even prevent today with vaccines. Prevention, when possible, is always a better option than trying to cure it down the road.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HPV vaccines for all 11 or 12-year-old kids. The vaccine is a three-dose series. Approximately 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys have completed the series. The CDC’s website says teenagers who did not get the vaccine or did not get all three doses should get it now.

“Many are surprised to learn that nearly all sexually active adults are exposed to HPV. Everyone is at risk,” says Amanda Dempsey, MD, PhD, MPH, CU Cancer Center investigator and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Getting vaccinated early, before any possible HPV exposure, is the best way to prevent infection that may lead to cancer.”

Dempsey points out the HPV vaccine has been studied for ten years and there are no significant safety concerns associated with it.

“It’s the same principle as getting fluoride treatments,” said Dempsey. “We don’t wait until we get a cavity to get a treatment. We use it to prevent the cavity.”

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all women through age 26 and for all men through age 21. Catch up vaccines also are recommended for men at increased risk for HPV infection through the age 26.

“The HPV vaccine is an example of something with huge benefit and very little risk,” said Theodorescu. “We hope the public hears this loud and clear: getting the vaccine now will prevent some of these cancers later. I had both of my children vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available. I believe in the approach.”

More information on HPV and the vaccine is available on the CDC website.

Read the joint statement: NCI_HPV_Consensus_Statement_012716HPVConsensusStatement_Jan2017

About the author: Erika Matich

Erika Matich is the communications manager for the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Contact her at Erika.Matich [at] ucdenver.edu.

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