Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Expert Voices

HPV vaccination rates show progress, but off track for 2020 goal

Pediatrician Richard K. Ohnmacht prepares a shot of the HPV vaccine Gardasil for a patient at his office in Cranston, Rhode Island, Sept. 3, 2015.
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.

New cervical cancer screening guidelines add sole HPV testing

Papilloma virus, HPV). It causes cervical cancer. Image taken with transmission electron microscopy.
Human Papilloma virus, (HPV). It causes cervical cancer. Image taken with transmission electron microscopy. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on Tuesday issued its latest recommendations for cervical cancer screening, which now say women 30 and older can drop the traditional Pap tests every 3 years in favor of testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) every 5 years, if they choose to.

Why it matters: There's been some debate in the medical field if Pap tests (also called cytology tests) should be dropped completely from the roster for women of that age group, as recent studies increasingly show HPV tests can be more sensitive and are valid for a longer period of time.