HPV Vaccine for Cancer Prevention

A very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) known as the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

  • HPV vaccine is recommended for:
    • Preteens aged 11 to 12 years but can be given starting at age 9.
    • Everyone through age 26 years if they have not already received the HPV vaccine.
  • HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone over 26 years old. Some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.
  • If vaccination is started before 15 years old, a two-dose schedule is recommended,  given 6 to 12 months apart. For people who start the series after their 15th birthday, the vaccine is given in a three-dose schedule.

The HPV vaccine prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing infections or diseases. Therefore, the vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV. You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine.

Screening Tests
  • Screening tests are used to look for a disease before there are any symptoms.
  • Of all the gynecologic cancers, only cervical cancer has screening tests that can find this cancer early, when treatment works best.
  • The Pap test also helps to prevent cervical cancer by finding precancers (cell changes on the cervix). These precancers may become cervical cancer if they are not treated.
  • A test called the HPV test looks for HPV infection. It can be used for screening women aged 30 years and older.