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New HPV Vaccine Broadens Cancer Protection

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The Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine Wednesday that protects against more forms of cancer-causing viruses.

The new version of the vaccine, called Gardasil, prevents infection with nine strains of the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV). Current vaccines protect against either two or four of the viruses.

“Gardasil 9 has the potential to prevent approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers,” the FDA said in a statement.

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“Gardasil 9 is a vaccine approved for use in females ages 9 through 26 and males ages 9 through 15. It is approved for the prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58, and for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 or 11,” the agency said.

The five new HPV types covered by the vaccine —31, 33, 45, 52 and 58— cause about 20 percent of cervical cancers.

HPV is very, very common.

The viruses cause warts and other lesions and two in particular, HPV 16 and HPV 18, cause cancers of the cervix, anus and penis, as well as the mouth and throat. Types 6 and 11 can cause lesions and genital warts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 14 million people become newly infected each year with the cancer-causing forms of HPV. CDC says most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives, but the infections usually clear up without causing harm.

All boys and girls are supposed to get three doses of the vaccine, starting at age 11 or 12. But not enough do. Only a third of girls who should have finished the series have received all three doses, and the record’s even worse for boys. While 57 percent of pre-teen or teen girls have received at least one dose of HPV, only 35 percent of boys have, CDC says.

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