Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common reproductive system infection in the United States. There are more than 100 HPV types. Most types affect the skin, causing common warts. Some high-risk types of HPV are oncogenic (cancer-causing) and cause cervical cancer and other anogenital cancers. Cervical cancer does not develop in all women who are infected with high-risk types of HPV, but all women with cervical cancer have been infected with high-risk types of HPV. HPV is also associated with cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and some head and neck cancers. Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms and the infection does not develop into cancer.
The human papillomavirus is spread person-to-person primarily through direct sexual contact. It also can be transmitted to infants during childbirth. HPV is a public health concern because scientists believe that most sexually active people will contract HPV before 50 years of age. Sexually active people can reduce their chances of HPV infection by properly and consistently using condoms or by being in a monogamous relationship with a non-infected partner.
It is important that women get routine Pap smears for cervical cancer screening. Routine screening can identify cancer early, when it is still curable. Because about 30% of cervical cancers are not prevented by HPV vaccine, sexually active women who have received HPV vaccine still need routine Pap smears.
There are two human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. Gardasil® contains the four types of HPV (6, 11, 16, and 18) that cause most cervical cancer and genital warts. Cervarix® contains the two types of HPV (16 and 18) that cause most cervical cancer. Upon completing the vaccine series, almost all recipients who have not been previously infected with HPV develop protective immunity to these HPV types. At this time only Gardasil® is approved for use in males.
Product: Gardasil® (Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, 18) Vaccine, Recombinant)
Manufacturer: Merck & Co
Year licensed: 2006
Product: Cervarix® (Human Papillomavirus Bivalent (Types 16 and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant)
Year licensed: 2009
Footnote 1: During pregnancy,
HPV appears to be safe for both the mother and the fetus, but it is
still being studied. If a woman is found to be pregnant after a dose of
HPV vaccine, the remainder of HPV vaccine doses should be delayed until
after the pregnancy. Receiving HPV vaccine when pregnant is NOT a reason
to consider terminating the pregnancy. Any woman who learns that she
was pregnant after receiving Cervarix can call 888-452-9622 (for
Cervarix). The pregnancy registry for Gardasil has closed. Information
from these registries will help scientists learn how pregnant women
respond to HPV vaccine.
Footnote 2: Females who are breastfeeding may safely receive HPV vaccine.
Merck & Company's vaccine, Gardasil, is a quadravalent vaccine that is protective against HPV strains 6, 11, 16 and 18, which can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June of 2006.
GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine, Cervarix, is a bivalent non-infectious recombinant, AS04-adjuvanted vaccine that is protective against strains 16 and 18 HPV viruses, which can lead to cervical cancer. Cervarix was approved by the FDA in October of 2009.