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A pediatrician prepares a shot of the HPV vaccine Gardasil for a patient. Photo: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In 2006, a safe and effective human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine became available to protect against cancers caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination rates in adolescent boys and girls are rising, though still not fast enough, with HPV-linked cancer cases soaring by nearly 45% between 1999 and 2015. Fewer than half of American adolescents have been fully vaccinated, far short of the 80% goal officials have set for 2020.

Why it matters: The lifetime risk of acquiring an HPV infection is approximately 80%. Each year, 14 million new cases are diagnosed in the U.S., and 79 million Americans are currently infected, putting them at increased risk of cervical cancer as well as throat, vaginal, penile and anal cancers. A more comprehensive campaign is needed to make the world free of HPV infections.

All 70 National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers recommend that boys and girls ages 11 to 12 receive two doses of the HPV vaccine, 6 to 12 months apart. Women who have not received the vaccine should undergo HPV screenings. In some cases though, as for throat cancer, no screening test exists.

What to watch: A trial is underway to assess whether a single vaccination is sufficient to confer immunity. Also, there is a new screening recommendation as an option for women 30 and over, moving from a pap smear every 3 years to the more reliable HPV molecular test every 5 years.

A more comprehensive campaign might also include the following objectives:

  • Remove Barriers: Free or low-cost and convenient access to HPV vaccination and screening is needed, everywhere from schools and retail settings to faith-based organizations.
  • Enact Policy: Legislators should make vaccination mandatory with an opt-out provision and add vaccination rates as a quality measure for health-care providers.
  • Launch knowledge campaign: Government, industry, healthcare institutions and media should launch a multi-pronged educational campaign using mass media, celebrity endorsements, and advertisements.

The bottom line: The 33,000 HPV cancers that will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year reflect the lack of vaccination in the past decade. Parents, legislators and doctors must continue improving vaccination rates to reduce the incidence of these preventable cancers.

Ronald DePinho is a professor and past president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Go deeper

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."