Gardasil Has Already Drastically Cut HPV Infections in Young Women

Feb 23, 2016

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Kateryna Kon

By Phil Plait

More good vaccine news! A new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the presence of human papillomavirus, or HPV, has dropped sharply in recent years in young American women. Why? The Gardasil vaccine.

This is consistent with other reports, too: In Australia, HPV-induced cases of genital warts have declined since Gardasil was introduced, and HPV infection rates were seen to be dropping in the U.S. as well.

HPV is awful. Two strains of it, HPV 16 and 18, are responsible for a staggering 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in women. HPV can also cause oral cancer, genital warts, and cancer of the vulva, anus, penis, and more. And here’s the kicker: About 80 million people in the U.S. carry HPV, with 14 million more cases every year.

But we’re fighting it, and we’re starting to win.

Specifically, in this new study they examined the presence of the virus in groups of women from before the vaccine was introduced (from 2003–06) and then after (from 2009–12). They looked for several strains of HPV, including HPV 16 and 18 (as well as HPV 6 and 11, which aren’t as dangerous but which are also prevented by Gardasil).

For young women aged 14–19, the presence of those four strains of HPV (and some others) were found to drop by an incredible 64 percent overall, and by 34 percent in women aged 20–24.

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