Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the expanded use of a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for adults up to 45 years old. Gardasil 9 prevents certain cancers caused by nine different strains of HPV.  

“The best way to prevent an HPV-related cancer of any kind is to get vaccinated against the HPV virus,” said Ezra Cohen, MD, associate director for translational science at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and head and neck oncologist. “We’re talking about a vaccine that can prevent cancer from ever starting, saving lives and reducing suffering.”

According to the FDA, the vaccine has shown to be effective in the prevention of persistent infection, genital warts, vulvar and vaginal precancerous lesions, cervical precancerous lesions, and cervical cancer related to HPV types covered by the vaccine among women between 27 and 45 years of age. Its effectiveness in preventing disease in men is based on previous research in younger men.

In 2014, the FDA approved Gardasil 9 for use in young people aged 9 through 26 years.

”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected with the HPV types covered by the vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers, or 31,200 cases every year, from ever developing,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

According to the CDC, HPV infections are responsible for approximately 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States. Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, and other genital cancers as well as oropharyngeal (middle throat) cancer.

The most commonly reported adverse reactions are injection site pain, swelling, redness and headaches.

“The HPV vaccination offers a rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer and reduce the rates of this global epidemic,” said Joseph Califano, MD, director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. “I highly recommend that adults discuss this strategy with their primary care physician, both for themselves and their children.”

Cohen, Califano and other HPV experts are available to discuss HPV, the vaccine and cancer prevention.

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