November 19, 2018
Options for preventing cancer just improved. The HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, head and neck cancer and other malignancies, is now approved for men and women between 27 and 45 years of age, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Originally approved in 2006 for preteens and people up to age 26, the vaccine, Gardasil 9, works against the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus can cause genital warts; precancerous lesions of the vulva, vagina and cervix; cervical cancer; and cancers of the mouth and throat. The virus, which has many strains, is sexually transmitted. Most adults encounter at least one strain at some point in their lives. The vaccine protects against nine strains, including those most likely to cause cancers and genital warts.
Physicians like Kevin Ault, a gynecologist with The University of Kansas Health System, say this is great news for many people. HPV causes 43,000 new cancer cases each year. “Of those 43,000, we could prevent 90 percent of them if everyone was vaccinated,” says Dr. Ault. For years, he’s been advocating that adolescents of both sexes should get the vaccine – one of the few available that can actually prevent cancer.
Dr. Ault says this new guideline opens the door to the vaccine for many adults who were not eligible to receive it previously. “There are certainly people who are going to benefit,” he says. “Now I have the option to talk to patients in the 27 to 45 age range who might benefit from the HPV vaccine. People should talk to their gynecologist, family doctor or internist about getting vaccinated,” he says.
Because the vaccine has only recently received FDA approval, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet determined a recommendation for people older than 26. As many insurance plans cover only recommended vaccines, you will want to check with your insurance provider to see if the vaccine is covered.Learn more about HPV and cancer prevention.