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HPV: Cervical 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, but 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. According to the American Cancer Society, about 13,170 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2019. 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 and effective vaccines that can 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.

FDA approves Gardasil 9 to prevent HPV-related head and neck cancers

As of June 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an expanded indication for the Human Papillomavirus 9-valent vaccine (also known as Gardasil 9) for the prevention of head and neck cancer caused by HPV types 16,18,31,33,45,52, & 58. See the press release from Merck vaccine manufacturer. Gardasil 9 is a vaccine indicated in both males and females 9 through 45 years of age for protection against head and neck cancers and several other HPV-related cancers.

Gardasil 9 does not eliminate the necessity for proper screening for head and neck cancers or other HPV-related type cancers as recommended by a healthcare provider. Contact your healthcare provider regarding vaccinations.

Visit for more information regarding Gardasil 9 vaccine.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine vaccination for males and females at age 11 or 12, but the HPV vaccine can be given as early as age 9. CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also now recommend to include the "catch up" age for both men and women aged 18-26, recently expanding the recommendation to include older adults up to age 45 who had not been adequately vaccinated. This age group should make a shared decision with their doctor about the HPV vaccination. Adults older than 45 who have not been vaccinated are not advised to do so, since HPV vaccines are not licensed for use in that age group.

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 the CDC's Current Cervical Cancer Screening Recommendations.

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, outlines what kind of follow-up care is needed, and discusses 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 papillomavirus (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.

Alabama Adolescent Vaccination Task Force

The purpose of the Alabama Adolescent Vaccination Task Force, or AAVTF, is to bring together organizations with a common goal in order to increase Alabama adolescent vaccination rates, with a specific focus on HPV Vaccination. Please visit the ADPH Immunization AAVTF page for more information.

Additional Resources for Parents and Public

Page last updated: May 23, 2024