Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, HPV Testing, and HPV Vaccines : Frequently Asked Questions

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HPV vaccines

Is there a vaccine to help prevent HPV?

Yes. At this time there are 2 vaccines available to help prevent certain types of HPV and some of the cancers linked to those types: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. These vaccines prevent the 2 types of HPV (HPV-16 and HPV-18) that cause 70% of all cervical cancers.

Gardasil also prevents the 2 types of HPV (HPV-6 and HPV-11) that cause 90% of all genital warts.

Cervarix may also provide some protection against some high-risk types of HPV besides 16 and 18.

Did the American Cancer Society play a role in the development of the HPV vaccines?

Yes. Dr. Robert Rose at the University of Rochester was a member of 1 of 4 teams that contributed to the development of a vaccine against HPV. The grant he received from the American Cancer Society in the mid-1990s enabled him to continue and confirm his important work studying the virus.

Are the HPV vaccines safe?

The FDA reports that both HPV vaccines, Gardasil (approved in 2006) and Cervarix (approved in 2009), are safe for females ages 9 to 26 years.

As of 2009, Gardasil is also licensed, and considered safe for males ages 9 through 26 years. Boys and young men may choose to get this vaccine to prevent anal cancer and genital warts.

Both vaccines were tested in thousands of people around the world before they were approved. These studies showed no serious side effects and no deaths have been linked to either vaccine. Common, mild side effects include pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea.

People may faint after getting any vaccine, including HPV vaccines. Fainting after getting a shot is more common in teens than in young children or adults. To keep people from getting hurt from fainting, a 15-minute waiting period for people of all ages is recommended after any vaccination.

Both HPV vaccines are still being monitored for side effects, especially rare ones not seen in the study trials. CDC and FDA doctors and scientists still review all reports of serious side effects reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to watch for potential new vaccine safety concerns that may need further study. (The VAERS is a national reporting system that looks at reports of side effects after vaccinations.) The American Cancer Society will watch those reviews and report any concerns about the safety of the vaccines.

Last Medical Review: 05/02/2013
Last Revised: 05/02/2013