Understanding the Connection between HPV and Many Other Types of Cancers

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main culprit causing cervical cancer. The virus is also linked to anal, genital, vulvar, and penile cancers as well as genital warts. HPV-related cancers are on the rise, but not many people know how HPV and cancer are connected. The lack of awareness about this connection could be a contributing factor to the plummeting rates of HPV-related cancers. Diseases such as oropharynx (throat) cancer are high on the increase and becoming an epidemic.

What is also not known is the reason why HPV-associated cancers such as anal, throat, and penile cancers are on the rise. Throat cancer is predominant in white men aged between 45 and 65. It is not clear why the risk is high in these men. The patients with HPV-related throat cancer are presumed to have had sex with multiple partners from an early age.

Anyone who has had sex is exposed to the HPV virus. Many have it but don’t know they do. Most of those who get HPV fight it off, but others either develop cancer or have the virus in their system for a long time. Researchers are working on ways that can help them understand those whose virus progresses to cancer.

The FDA approved a vaccine that can immunize four types of cancer-related HPVs. Known as Gardasil, the vaccine also protects against five more strains of HPV. Although supported by scientific and medical experts, the vaccine has been met with much controversy and skepticism. This is with regard to the recommended age for vaccination, the status of HPV a sexually transmitted infection, the vaccine being dangerous, and other unfounded claims that it could increase promiscuity in teenagers. Despite these controversies, the Gardasil vaccine has worked well on patients with excellent outcomes.

The lack of information and education about HPV and its link to cancer is causing the hike in incidences of HPV-related disease. The vaccine, for example, can help prevent about 90% of HPV-related cancers. If only the public were sensitized about HPV and cancer, more efforts would be made to prevent it and the rising cases of HPV related cancers.

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