BOSTON, MA — Over the past 30 years, the number of cervical cancer
deaths in the United States has dropped by half to 4,000 deaths a year.
The main reason for the decrease is the Pap test, which screens for the
disease. Now cervical cancer prevention has entered a new era, with the
FDA's recent approval of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV).
Scientists believe certain strains of this virus cause nearly all
cervical cancers. Although the vaccine promises to save lives, it won't
make Pap tests unnecessary, reports the September issue of the Harvard Health Letter.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all
11- and 12-year-old American girls get the shots, although girls as
young as 9 could receive it if they're sexually active. For "catch-up,"
the CDC also recommends that girls and women ages 13–26 be vaccinated.
vaccine works best before an individual has been exposed to HPV. Older
girls and young women are included in the CDC recommendations because
even if they've been exposed to HPV, it may not be to the strains
contained in the vaccine. More studies are needed before
recommendations can be made for women older than 26 and for males. It's
up to individual states to decide if the HPV vaccine will be required
for school entry.
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