HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections play a critical role in the development of cervical cancer. There is a vaccine against these sexually transmitted viruses. It targets the most common of the cancer-causing viruses, but doesn't provide complete protection against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is nearly always caused by infections with specific types of human papillomavirus. HPV infections occur in humans only, affecting skin and mucous membrane cells. They can be spread through direct contact with infected skin or mucous membranes. HPV infections usually go unnoticed, don't cause any symptoms, and clear up on their own. In rare cases, though, they gradually lead to the development of cervical cancer over many years or decades.
More than 200 different strains of HPV are currently known. Some cause warts to grow on the skin (also called papillomas). About 40 different types of HPV can infect skin and mucous membranes in the genital area. These viruses are transmitted sexually, but they are spread through contact with skin and membranes, and not through body fluids.
Because they are very common, it is estimated that as many as 90% of all sexually active women and girls are infected.
As well as having the vaccine, regularly going for screening can help prevent cervical cancer. Abnormal cells (dysplasia) can usually be discovered in this way and removed if necessary.