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 Papilomavirus (HPV) and  Cervical Cancer

HPV Vaccines

Key Facts

  • Human papillomavirus is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.

  • HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact.

  • HPV comprises more than 150 strains of related viruses, most of which are relatively harmless. About 40 of them can infect the genital areas in both men and women, and a smaller number can cause genital warts or cancer.

  • Among the many types of HPV, 15 are cancer-causing (known as high-risk types).         

  • Nearly all (99.7%) cervical cancers are caused by persistent infection with one of the approximately 15 types of high-risk, mucosal HPV.

  • Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions.

  • There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oral cavity.

  • Vaccines against HPV 16 and 18 have been approved for use in many countries.

  • Low-risk types of HPV, such as HPV6 and HPV11, may cause anogenital warts but are not associated with cervical cancer.

  • There are three FDA-approved vaccines available in Cyprus (Gardasil, Gardasil9 and Cervarix) that target HPV16 and HPV18, the strains of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers.

  • Gardasil also includes prevention against LR-HPV6 and LR-HPV11, whereas Gardasil 9 expands protection further by adding five additional high-risk -HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52, and 58).

  • FDA-approved vaccinations have been proven to be highly effective and may prevent up to 100% of HPV infections and precancerous cervical lesions in women not already exposed to HPV.

  • They also prevent infection in other anatomical sites including the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and perineum.

  • The vaccines are most effective when administered before exposure to HPV (before sexual contact)

  • However, HPV-exposed individuals not already immunized should still receive the vaccine as it will provide protection against strains of HPV to which the individual has not been exposed.

  • Vaccinated individuals should continue to have routine cervical cancer screening and HPV testing at age-appropriate intervals.

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