About the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV)

HPV Basics: 

The Connection to Cancer 


The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the world's most common and widespread viral infections. It's the cause of most cancers of the cervix and other anogenital sites, as well as many of the oropharynx (tonsils and throat). Cervical cancer is a deadly sexually transmitted disease that affects women of all ages, including many in their thirties and forties. Oropharyngeal cancer, also a deadly and disfiguring disease, occurs mainly in men, usually in their fifties and sixties.

HPV Infections: 

By the Numbers


There are more than 35,000 cases of HPV-related malignancies in the U.S. each year. Arkansas, in particular, has some of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country.


The HPV vaccine prevents this disease.


HPV is generally acquired in adolescence (age 13 and up) or early adulthood and is passed from person to person through physical contact. In most cases, infection is asymptomatic (causes no discomfort) and spontaneously cleared in weeks to months. For unknown reasons, it persists in some persons, and infected sites become cancerous 20-40 years later when people are in the prime of life.

HPV & Cancer Prevention: 

An Effective Vaccine


A highly effective and safe vaccine, Gardasil (Merck), has been available since 2006 and has been given to millions of children worldwide. Some countries, including Australia, Switzerland, and the UK, have adopted universal vaccination through school-based programs. They were able to report significant drops in pre-cancerous lesions. 


In January 2024, Scottish physicians reviewed their experience. They looked at girls born between 1988 and 1996 before the vaccine was introduced. They then looked at the rates of cervical cancer that developed in this cohort, some of whom were vaccinated and some not because they had finished school by the time the vaccine was introduced. These women are now only in their twenties and early thirties, but the results so far are impressive.


For girls vaccinated at 12-13, there were NO cases of cervical cancer to date. For girls 14 and up at vaccination, the rate was 3.8 cases of cervical cancer/100,000 children. For the non-vaccinated group, the rate was 8.2 cases/100,000.1 These differences will only increase with time.


Another recent study from Finland suggests that vaccinating boys significantly protects the whole population, as "herd immunity" is achieved at much lower rates of vaccination than if only girls are targeted.2 


The reason there are few or no studies from the US is that we have no uniform policy to achieve high vaccination rates. Vaccination against HPV is not mandated in the US, but that does not mean that it is not very important. The most significant barrier to vaccination is the failure of health care providers to recommend it and the failure of parents to request it. Essentially, it's up to you to ask for it!


Sources: 1. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol 116, #1, Jan.  22, 2024; 2. Cell Host and Microbe, Vol 31, #11, November 08, 2023

HPV in Arkansas: 

The Need to Vaccinate

Vaccination is recommended for both boys and girls. In Washington and Benton Counties, the 2019 statistics suggest that less than 50% of adolescents have been properly vaccinated. Complete vaccination is a series of 2 injections, six months apart, before the age of 15, or 3 injections after that age. Many adolescents do not complete the vaccination process and are not optimally protected. Early vaccination affords better protection as exposure and susceptibility to HPV are common, starting around age 13.

 Early vaccination could also save you money. The HPV vaccine is FREE to any child under the age of 18 with or without insurance. After age 18, you pay for all 3 doses without insurance.

HPV Parent Resources 

Visit our FAQ Page for immediate questions

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Learn about the vaccine at the Centers for disease control

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Get local HPV info at the Arkansas Department of Health

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Find an HPV immunization location near you

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Find cancer info at the National Cancer Institute

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Get Local Cancer Info at Arkansas Cancer Coalition

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There are over 150 types of HPV.

HPV is a very common virus.

Both boys and girls can be infected.

Schedule a vaccine today! It's your child's best shot against cancer.

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