HPV: Cancer Prevention

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. The virus, of which there are approximately 40 known types, can cause genital warts and many cancers. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer, and some other cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are also caused by HPV.  In fact, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women, of which every year there are around 11,000 new cases. Cervical cancer causes the death of about 4,000 U.S. women each year.

Because HPV usually does not exhibit any symptoms, it is possible to have it without knowing it - and to unknowingly spread the virus to others. This can be prevented with a series of safe, effective vaccines that will protect women - and men - against the most common types of HPV and their related health problems.

The HPV vaccine (Gardasil) protects against over half a dozen types of cancers including cervical, penile and oropharyngeal. Two doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for most persons starting the series before their 15th birthday. The best time to get immunized is age 11 or 12 as part of regular scheduled vaccines which include: Tdap, influenza and meningococcal. It is very important for preteens age 11 and 12 to get vaccinated on schedule so they are protected before they are exposed to the virus.

Please visit ADPH’s Cancer Prevention Vaccines to learn more about immunization and cancer prevention. Resource materials include:

  • Survivor stories
  • Why you should get screened
  • HPV vaccine information
  • CDC’s physician and staff resources
  • ASP and AAFP’s lessons learned
  • Alabama HPOV vaccine distribution
  • Hepatitis B vaccine

Getting Screened for Cervical Cancer

For more information about the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer, please read Cervical Cancer Screening with the HPV test and the Pap test in women ages 30 and older, a patient educational brochure available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Demand Programs

Program Overview: This program focuses on HPV and cervical cancer and is part of a series on health disparities in minorities in Alabama continues. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and about a third can lead to cervical cancer. While cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates are decreasing among women in some racial and ethnic populations, trends show numbers continue to be high with African-American and Hispanic women.

Program Overview: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), all women ages 21 and older need to have regular Pap smear screenings. A Pap smear is a screening tool, not a diagnostic test for cervical cancer; therefore, further evaluation is required when abnormal changes occur. There are major differences between the types of abnormal Pap smears, their causes and their treatment and follow-up. This program discusses how the test is taken, what the different diagnoses of abnormal cells mean, outline what kind of follow-up care is needed, and discuss the role of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) as a cause for cellular change that can lead to cancer.

Alabama HPV Coalition

ADPH is a member of a coalition of organizations from across Alabama to address barriers and improve human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination rates in the state. For more information about the coalition and the statewide assessment of the HPV vaccination rates, visit UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Additional Resources for Parents and Public





Page last updated: September 6, 2018