Health Shorts: Talking to your child about HPV

Gardasil is a vaccine, approved in 2006, to protect against strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that have been implicated as a necessary pre-condition of cervical cancer. Since the vaccine is recommended for young females before they begin sexual activity, it creates a somewhat awkward situation for parents.

As one doctor explained, the goal is to prevent cancer deaths. While the vaccine can be a good way to start a conversation about sex, the focus can and should be on cancer prevention. The vaccine will do nothing to prevent pregnancy nor any other STD except HPV.

Sometimes associated with genital warts, HPV is extremely common, affecting about 80 percent of persons who have ever had sex. The strains most implicated in cervical cancer usually have no symptoms and can be passed even with use of condoms (rarely) and even with anal or genital contact that does not include intercourse.

[SOURCE: Angela Townsend, “Vaccines show promise against cancer-causing HPV, but questions still linger,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 22, 2009]

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Last Updated November 05, 2009