KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Globally, one woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes, according to the World Health Organization.
HPV or human papillomavirus is a common virus that can lead to six types of cancers later in life and the vaccine to prevent them is getting a new recommendation.
“It’s extraordinarily common out there and so if we can really reduce the number of folks who are carriers of HPV, we will reduce the number of women dying from cervical cancer,” Dr. Eric Penniman, Summit Medical Group’s executive medical director.
A Wednesday vote in Atlanta by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is changing the recommendation for the human papillomavirus vaccine.
The CDC now recommends boys, girls, men and women get the vaccine through the age of 26. The previous recommendation for young men went to age 21.
“When the Gardasil vaccine or the HPV vaccine first came out it was only recommended for girls, and then they realized well gosh it’s the boys who are giving it to the girls so let’s go ahead and vaccinate the boys,” said Dr. Penniman. “The vaccine to help prevent the spread of the HPV virus is actually preventing cancer.”
HPV is a virus with nearly 200 strains, four of which Dr. Penniman says cause more than 90 percent of all cervical cancer.
HPV is so common, the CDC says most sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their life.
“… And what a lot of men don’t realize is when they first have relations with their wife, there’s a 42 percent chance that they’re going to spread HPV to their wife and many of those women will go on to get cervical cancer, and that can be prevented,” Dr. Penniman said.
Another vote on that same day by the ACIP recommends adults ages 27 to 45 could still get the vaccine, but to consult their doctors.
“We always dreamed, oh let’s dream about the cure for cancer… well, guess what we have a vaccine that will actually prevent one very important type of cancer,” said Dr. Penniman.
The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as early as 11 or 12.
According to the CDC, children who get the first dose of the vaccine before their 15th birthday only need two doses. Children who get the first dose on or after their 15th birthday need three.