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HPV vaccine approved for older population

Last week, the FDA approved the HPV vaccine — Gardasil 9 — for adults aged 26-45. What does this mean and who can benefit?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause very unpleasant and even fatal diseases, which is why physicians have recommended pre-teens get the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine - Gardasil 9 - can help prevent certain types of cancers and other illnesses diagnosed later in life. So, the FDA's approval of Gardasil 9 for adults 25-45 is a milestone considering it has the promise to significantly reduce some cancer cases later in life.

Each year, nearly 14 million Americans contract HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,000 women die from cervical cancer related to HPV.

The numbers are just as glaring for HPV-related throat cancers.

Who should get the new HPV vaccine?

The answer is easy: Anyone between 26-45, even if you are in a monogamous relationship.

HPV is rampant and has multiple cancer causing strains. If you are sexually active, you have been exposed to at least one of them. Getting the new vaccine will guard you against the remaining strains, as well as their associated illnesses.

HPV-related cancers are endemic, but don't manifest until mid-life. Take HPV-related throat, or oropharyngeal, cancer for example. These cancers are rising among men and are now more common than throat cancer caused by smoking.

Protect yourself now.

Any side effects?

Nothing outside of the side effects typically associated with vaccines - swelling, redness, soreness at the injection site and headaches.

Why the vaccine was approved

The FDA's approval comes on the heels of a study that found Gardasil effective in 88 percent of women between 27 and 45 years after following them for an average of 3.5 years. The vaccine helped prevent HPV infection, vulvar and vaginal pre-cancers, genital warts, cervical pre-cancers and cervical cancers related to the virus types covered by the vaccine.

Douglas Frank, MD, is the director of surgical oncology of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute and the chief of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. His work has garnered several prestigious awards, including a Presidential Citation from the American Head and Neck Society, the American Society for Head and Neck Surgery Basic Science Research Award, and the American Head and Neck Society Clinical Science Research Award.

"HPV is rampant and has multiple cancer causing strains. If you are sexually active, you have been exposed to at least one of them. Getting the new vaccine will guard you against the remaining strains, as well as their associated illnesses."
— Douglas Frank, MD
Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause various illnesses as you age.
Learn more about HPV and what you can do.
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