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HPV Prevention, Risks, and Complications
Reviewed by: Frank Cockerill, MD. June 2, 2017
Is HPV preventable?
Yes. There are two types of HPV vaccines that prevent the virus in
the first place. Both vaccines are safe and FDA-approved for females
and males, ages 9–26. Talk to your doctor to find out if and when it
makes sense for you (or your son or daughter) to get vaccinated.
Using condoms and practicing safer sex greatly reduces the chances
of contracting or transmitting HPV.
The American Cancer Society reports that there are about 150 types
of HPV. Most types are not serious, but there are about 30 types that
can put you at risk for health complications, including cancer.
These types of HPV are transmitted through sexual contact and affect
the genitals (most commonly with warts). In rare instances, a pregnant
woman with genital HPV can pass the virus to her baby during delivery.
Genital warts are considered "low-risk HPV". "High-risk HPV" can
result in cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, and cervix in women.
The CDC reports that about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical
cancer every year. In men, high-risk HPV can lead to cancers of the penis
and anus. High-risk HPV can also result in throat or tongue cancers, in
both men and women who have oral receptive sex.