Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Should I be vaccinated against cervical cancer?

Q. Recently, I read about a vaccine against cancer of the cervix. Is this something I should consider?

A. You're referring to two vaccines in development as of spring 2006 for use against the human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer. Neither is on the market yet, but they are an exciting development in science and medicine.

Of the 100 types of HPV, 30–40 of them are sexually transmitted and cause genital HPV infection. Some cause genital warts, while others trigger changes in the cells of the cervix that can progress to cervical cancer. Genital HPV is very common — 5.5 million new cases occur each year, and about 20 million men and women are thought to have active HPV infection at any given time.

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