Cancer Prevention

HPV Vaccine: Now Approved For People Ages 27 to 45

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Despite being the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., human papillomavirus (HPV) doesn’t always get a lot of attention outside your doctor’s office.

Recently, however, HPV-related cancers, which typically occur as a result of intimate, skin-to-skin contact (not necessarily through sex), have become more common, prompting health care experts to advocate for a faster uptake in administering the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, which until recently was only approved by the FDA for men and women up to age 26.

But as of October 5, 2018, that age range has been increased up to 45, allowing for a larger swath of the population to receive a vaccine that can prevent genital warts and cancers of the cervix, throat/mouth, penis, anus and vulva.

“This change allows a lot more people to have access to this important cancer prevention tool,” says Tamer Ghanem, M.D., Ph.D., an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) and head and neck cancer surgeon at Henry Ford Health System.

If you fall within that age range, the vaccine might be right for you, but it also may not have any effect. The vaccine works to stave off multiple strains of HPV, so if you’ve already been exposed to a certain strain, the vaccine doesn’t make it disappear. (Note: Nearly all sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In most cases, the infection goes away on its own and does not turn into cancer.)

Nonetheless, the vaccine can still prevent individuals from being exposed to other strains of HPV—including those that can cause cancer — regardless of his or her age.

Related Topic: The Link Between HPV and Throat Cancer

Doctors typically recommend that boys and girls complete the vaccination (a series of two to three shots, depending on age) starting around 11 or 12, before they’re more likely to become sexually active.

Still, for people well beyond their teen years, the vaccine can add a sense of security and protection as men and women navigate the dating world.

And as rates for HPV-related cancers continue to rise, that sense of protection can be helpful indeed.

For more information on the HPV vaccine or the virus itself, schedule an appointment or find a primary care provider by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) or online at henryford.com.

 Dr. Tamer Ghanem leads the head and neck cancer surgery team at Henry Ford and is a renowned expert in transoral robotic surgery. He sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The Ear, Nose & Throat team at Henry Ford Hospital was recently ranked 23rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report on its 2018-19 Best Hospitals list.