8 benefits of HPV vaccine beyond cervical cancer prevention | Health - Hindustan Times
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Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: 8 benefits of HPV vaccine beyond cervical cancer prevention

By, New Delhi
Jan 25, 2024 11:35 AM IST

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: HPV vaccine not just helps prevent cervical cancer, but also offers a range of benefits.

Cervical cancer is caused by HPV virus (human papillomavirus) when it stays in the body for a very long time and is not naturally eliminated. While HPV is contracted by most sexually active people, in most of the cases, the body is able to clear out the virus on its own. There are almost 12 different types of HPV strains; while some are low risk, the others are high risk which can cause various types of cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer HPV can cause, apart from anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers caused by the virus which are less common.

Cervical cancer is one of the major causes of mortality in women and in India, it contributes to approximately 6–29% of all cancers in women.(Freepik)
Cervical cancer is one of the major causes of mortality in women and in India, it contributes to approximately 6–29% of all cancers in women.(Freepik)

Cervical cancer is one of the major causes of mortality in women and in India, it contributes to approximately 6–29% of all cancers in women. Millions of people die of cancer every year, but many of them including cervical cancer are preventable. Unlike other cancer sites, cervix can be subjected to screening for early diagnosis and treatment. Early screening can substantially increase chances of survival. One of the most effective ways to prevent cervical cancer is vaccination with HPV vaccine at an early age.

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CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests routine HPV vaccination at the age 11-12. The ideal age for vaccination as per CDC is before a person is sexually active. HPV vaccine isn't as effective once the virus enters the body as it works at preventing any new infection but not treating it.

5 BENEFITS OF HPV VACCINE

Apart from preventing cervical cancer, HPV vaccine also has other health benefits.

Dr Sudha Sinha, Clinical Director & HOD - Medical Oncology & Haematology, CARE Cancer Institute, CARE Hospitals, Hyderabad shares 5 health benefits of HPV vaccine beyond preventing cervical cancer:

1. Protection against various cancers

In addition to cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine guards against other cancers caused by high-risk HPV types. This includes anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers, reducing the risk of these diseases.

2. Prevents genital warts

The vaccine is effective in lowering the incidence of genital warts, which are caused by low-risk HPV types. By preventing these warts, the vaccine contributes to improved overall sexual health.

3. Prevention of transmission

The HPV vaccine not only protects the vaccinated individual but also helps in reducing the transmission of the virus within communities. This concept is known as herd immunity, where a significant portion of the population becomes immune, indirectly safeguarding those who are not vaccinated.

4. Decreased medical costs

By preventing HPV-related cancers and conditions, the vaccine contributes to reduced medical costs associated with the treatment of these diseases. This can lead to substantial savings in healthcare expenses at both individual and societal levels.

5. Long-term impact on public health

As more individuals receive the HPV vaccine, the long-term impact on public health becomes significant. Lower rates of HPV-related cancers and conditions contribute to a healthier population, with fewer instances of related morbidity and mortality.

HPV vaccine is a valuable tool for preventing various cancers, reducing the incidence of genital warts, preventing transmission within communities, decreasing healthcare costs, and contributing to the overall improvement of public health.

Dr Neha Rastogi Panda, Consultant – Infectious Disease, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram shares more benefits of HPV vaccine

6. Reduced pre-cancerous lesions

HPV infection can cause precancerous lesions in the cervix, vagina, and vulva. These lesions, if left untreated, can progress to cancer over time. Vaccination significantly reduces the development of these pre-cancerous lesions, preventing cancer even before it has a chance to start.

7. Herd immunity

When a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated against HPV, it creates a protective barrier for everyone, including those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons or age. This indirect protection, known as herd immunity, slows the spread of HPV and further reduces the risk of HPV-related diseases for everyone.

8. Long-term protection

The HPV vaccines currently available offer long-lasting protection, with studies suggesting immunity lasting for at least 20 years and potentially much longer. This means that vaccination at a young age can provide significant protection throughout adulthood.

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