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Vaccines Important Protection Against HPV: Doctor

Dr. Donald Brown holds the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardiasil in his hand at his Chicago office Monday, Aug. 28, 2006. Hailed by many doctors as a breakthrough in cancer prevention, the vaccine prevents infections from four strains of the sexually tra

The most common sexually transmitted infection is genital human papillomavirus, or HPV, which will infect more than half of sexually active men and women at some point in their lives.

The virus has more than 40 types, but many people who have the disease may not know it, Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician told “Hello VOA.” However, he said, the disease can be prevented through vaccines.

“There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital area of males and females,” he said. “They can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not know they have it. In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV.”

Some types of the virus cause genital warts or rare throat warts, he said. These are not cancerous.

However, types 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer, or, less commonly, cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head or neck, he said.

“Genital warts are small bumps or a group of bumps in the genital area,” he said. “A large lesion may be shaped like a cauliflower.” Medication can treat them, he said.

Cervical cancer, however, does not normally have symptoms until it is well advanced, he said. “An abnormal, non-cancerous cervix may progress to cancer over eight to 13 years. Regular pap smear screening can detect these early abnormalities, which can be successfully treated.”

Condom use can lower the risk of the virus, but it can infect exposed areas of skin, so condoms won’t fully protect against it, he said. However, HPV can be prevented through vaccines.

“It is recommended that girls and women get the vaccine from age nine to 26,” he said. “Three injections will be needed at zero, two and six months. Boys and men aged nine to 26 can also get the vaccine to prevent genital warts.”