What is HPV?
HPV, short for human papillomavirus, is a very common virus—about 79 million people in the United States are currently infected with HPV, and about 4 out of 5 people will get HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
Most HPV infections do not cause symptoms and go away on their own, but some HPV infections can cause health problems or lead to cancer years or even decades later. HPV infections can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women; penile cancer in men; and anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat (oropharynx), and genital warts in both men and women. There is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer or other diseases.
HPV Vaccination is Cancer Prevention
While there is no treatment for HPV, there is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HPV infections that are responsible for causing HPV-related cancers. HPV vaccination works best when given to boys and girls at 11-12 years of age as preteens have a stronger immune response to the vaccine at that age. In fact, preteens only need two shots compared to older adolescents who need three! It is also important to protect boys and girls before ever being exposed to the virus.
Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure your preteen is protected against HPV-related cancers!
- 31,500 men and women get HPV cancers in the United States each year.
- The HPV vaccine is over 97% effective at preventing infection with the types of HPV that cause most HPV cancers when given before your child is exposed to the virus.
- HPV vaccination has been studied very carefully and continues to be monitored by CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination.
In this video, a family physician explains his decision, as a doctor and a parent, to make sure each of his children received HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12.
Education and Resources
- HPV Vaccine Infographic - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- HPV Vaccine for Preteens and Teens: Fact Sheet for Parents - CDC (Español: La vacuna contra el VPH para preadolescentes y adolescentes)
- HPV and Cancer - National Cancer Institute
- HPV Vaccine is Safe - CDC, Department of Health and Human Services USA, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics
- A Parent’s Guide to Preteen and Teen HPV Vaccination - Immunization Action Coalition
- Vaccinate Your Family, a program of Every Child By Two
- The Link Between HPV and Cancer (CDC)
- Frequently Asked Questions about HPV Vaccine (CDC)
- HPV Survivor Stories - ShotByShot.org
About the Alliance for HPV Free Colorado
The Alliance for HPV Free Colorado (formerly the Denver Metro Alliance for HPV Prevention) is a regional collaborative led by Denver Public Health to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates among 11-17 year olds across 15 counties. Members include Boulder County Public Health, Broomfield Public Health and Environment, Denver Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, Northeast Colorado Health Department, Tri-County Health Department, and Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. Other official partners include the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition and the Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science. The project is funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Amendment 35 grant program to address cancer, childhood obesity, and tobacco use and exposure.
If you are a healthcare provider, visit our HPV Information for Providers Page to learn more about how you can get involved and help to increase HPV vaccination rates.