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Reducing cervical cancer risk with a vaccine

Posted at 4:27 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 10:29:59-05

When you think of vaccines, you might imagine getting a painful shot to reduce your risk of infectious disease. But a recent study shows for the first time, one vaccine decreases the risk of developing a certain type of cancer.

Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, not only causes genital warts but also cellular changes in the female cervix. Those changes promote the development of cervical cancer, a potentially deadly disease.

One way to prevent HPV is to get a vaccine known in the United States as Gardasil. Although HPV vaccines have been available for nearly 15 years, because cervical cancer is so rare, studies haven't been able to show they actually prevent the disease. By studying a national database, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that women who got the HPV vaccine were much less likely to develop cervical cancer than those who didn't receive it.

The age at which a woman gets inoculated is also important. Women over 17 were half as likely to develop cervical cancer later in life. Vaccination before age 17 was associated with an almost 90 percent lower risk.

The HPV vaccine is available not only to women, but also to men, who can decrease the spread of HPV, rates of warts and cervical cancer. So ask your doctor for more information on how you can get the HPV vaccine.