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As parents, we strive to protect our children from harm at every age. As our sons and daughters become adolescents, they may make certain choices, not realizing the impact it may have on their current and future health. We warn against the dangers of alcohol and drugs and sharing too much on social media. But what about human papillomavirus (HPV) – a common virus that can cause certain cancers and diseases?
While HPV-related cancers usually do not develop until later in life, many new HPV infections occur during the teen years and early twenties.
To best protect them, parents should educate themselves on these six facts before their sons and daughters may be exposed to HPV:
- Often, an HPV infection shows no symptoms, and the body clears the infection on its own. Some people never know they were infected. However, when HPV doesn’t go away, it can cause diseases, like genital warts and HPV-related cancers.
- Genital warts and certain HPV-related cancers can affect males as well as females. Many people have only heard about HPV as a cause of cervical cancer, but males are at risk for certain HPV-related diseases, too.
- Genital warts and anal cancer are two HPV-related conditions that can affect males, as well as females. Females may also be affected by cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer caused by HPV.
- HPV is very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Around 14 million become newly infected each year. For most, the infection clears on its own, but for some, certain HPV-related disease may develop.
- HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms, and it may take only one encounter to be infected with HPV. HPV can be transmitted through experimentation that involves genital contact of any kind – intercourse is not necessary but is the most common.
- Many parents of adolescents think it is too soon to think about how HPV may affect their children, but half of new HPV infections are in young people 15 to 24 years of age, and the best time to get the facts is before your children may be exposed.
As parents, we do things every day to protect our sons and daughters while we still manage their health. Speak to your doctor for more information on HPV and prevention. It is one more future health risk you can help address.
"Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 June 2015.
“The Pink Book, Human Papillomavirus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2015. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/hpv.pdf
Reviewed June 17, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith