As the HPV-positive cancer rates increase, the age group expands for vaccine

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – More people can now take a vaccine against a virus every year that causes cancer in over 3,300 women and men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is offered to a larger age group. The FDA has now approved the vaccine for adults 27-45.

HPV is linked to different cancers.

"A virus has been linked to various conditions, including cervical cancer, and also in connection with various other cancers," said Kim Shefchik, assistant at Bellin Health Generations.

According to Shefchik, doctors have seen more and more when it comes to cervical cancer, vaginal vulva cancer, anal cancer and head and neck cancer. HPV can also cause genital warts.

The virus is mainly spread by sexual contact. It can also be spread through genital-to-skin contact.

According to the CDC, 80 million Americans are infected with HPV.

"That means that it is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States," says Dr. Robert DeFatta, Plastic surgeon at DeFatta KNO.

A vaccine can protect against these cancers caused by HPV.

"The one we use is called Gardisil 9, and it covers nine different strains of the virus and actually the strains that are most likely to cause serious worries," says Shefchik. "It is clear that cancer is the most serious, ie the cervical, vaginal, vulva-cancer, anal cancer in men and women and the genital warts."

Vaccines work best before someone is exposed, so the HPV vaccine was previously approved only for minors and young adults aged 9-26 years.

New figures show an effective percentage of 88 percent in women over the age of 26, so the FDA decided to extend the age limit.

According to doctors, HPV not only affects women. Men are also diagnosed with cancers related to the virus.

"There has been an increase of 300 percent in oropharyngeal cancer, at least in men in the past 40 years, and 70-90 percent is HPV positive," says Dr. DeFatta.

DeFatta says that head and neck cancers linked to HPV will take cervical HPV-positive cancers by 2020.

At this moment, HPV is so dominant that it will take some time before numbers change.

"If every American who qualifies for the vaccine is given the next year, it will take 20-30 years to reverse the increasing frequency of oropharyngeal cancers among men affected in that age group," says DeFatta.

The CDC still has to weigh on the extended vaccion group.

"We do not have any findings from CDC yet, which cover the coverage of the insurance," says Shefchik.

Click here for more information about HPV.