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“My Kid is Way Too Young to Worry About HPV” & Other Common HPV Misconceptions

WellnessPost Category - WellnessWellness - Post Category - HealthHealth

Your kids may be playing with Lego and doing arts and crafts still but they’re not too young to safeguard against HPV-related cancers

As parents, we want to ensure the best future for our kiddos which is why it’s important to stay informed about health misconceptions. Yes, your kids may be little now but you can start safeguarding their future through simple preventative measures1. The Human papillomavirus (HPV)  is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact with an infected person1 and while most infections have no symptoms and could clear on their own, persisting ones can lead to HPV-related cancers.1 We dive into some common misconceptions about HPV.

Common misconceptions about human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV myths

1. “My kid is only 9, she’s way too young to worry about HPV”

Our kids seem so young now but we can still safeguard them. This could mean educating them about their bodies which can start young and in an age appropriate way.2 When kids are older you can discuss sex,2 and then sexual abstinence and monogamy – two practices which can prevent HPV infection1.

2. “We’re a good wholesome family. HPV isn’t something that can affect MY child.”

HPV infects almost everyone at some point1. By protecting your child early, you can help protect them against HPV-related cancers and diseases later in their lives.1,3 HPV is so common that about 8 out of 10 men and women will be infected at some point in their lives.1 There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and the high-risk types may cause cancers.4 These are the types that are associated to develop into related cancers, like cervical, vaginal and anal cancers.4

3. “I have a son so he’s safe from HPV – that’s something only girls need to worry about.”

HPV-related cancers can develop in both males and females, that’s why it’s important for both boys and girls to be protected.1 Globally, HPV is responsible for around 99% of cervical cancer cases, up to 78% of vaginal cancer cases, and up to 88% of anal cancers in both males and females.5 So it is very much something parents of both girls and boys should be thinking about.

4. “HPV is too stressful to think about if there’s no preventative method!”

We get it! It is stressful thinking about illness but it’s a lot more stressful dealing with illness once it’s sneaked up on you. HPV protection does exist and can help prevent infections that lead to certain types of cancer or​ disease.1 Since ‘prevention is better than cure’, as they say, before exposure is the best time to take that step.1 This is why it is important to speak to your doctor about preventive measures.1

HPV prevention

Planning ahead for preventive health measures can help reduce their risk of developing HPV-related diseases and cancers later in life. 1, 3 Beginning with routine health checks and discussions with our doctors, we can assess the most appropriate protective measures, particularly against the 14 high-risk HPV types.6 An available option is early vaccination, ideally done before kids become sexually active, parents can help ensure protection even before they are exposed to the virus.1 Aside from sexual abstinence and monogamy,1 the HPV vaccine also helps prevent other HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts.1 Currently there is no screening available for boys and young men.7 However when our girls reach their 20s, it will be important for them during regular check-ups like a Pap test to also screen to detect for abnormal cell growth caused by HPV that could be precancerous.8

Don’t leave your children vulnerable to HPV-related diseases and cancers1. Speak to your doctor about the appropriate protection for them. Find a clinic near you.

Readers are advised to consult with qualified medical professionals for medical advice and information regarding vaccines and their potential benefits or risks. The information provided in this article should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for professional medical consultation.

Links to sources
Healthhub article: Preventing HPV infection: HPV Vaccination healthhub.sg
Reasons for vaccination: www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine/six-reasons.html
Numbers of doses for kids: www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine-for-hpv.html
Vaccine safety: www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccinesafety.html

References
1. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Questions and Answers About Human Papillomavirus (HPV). January 2020. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/360807. Accessed 6 June 2023.
2. Pan American Health Organization. Fact Sheet: Human Papillomavirus (HPV). September 2016. https://www.paho.org/en/file/47879/download?token=jZGJF74P#:~:text=Human%20Papillomavirus%20(HPV)%20is%20a,infect%20both%20women%20and%20men. Accessed 6 February 2024.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hpv/public/index.html. Accessed 2 January 2024.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection. https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/hpv.htm. Accessed June 29, 2023.
5. de Martel C, Plummer M, Vignat J, Franceschi S. Worldwide burden of cancer attributable to HPV by site, country and HPV type. Int J Cancer. 2017;141(4):664-670.
6. National Cancer Institute. HPV and Cancer. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-and-cancer. Accessed 29 June 2023.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD Facts: HPV and Men. https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-and-men.htm. Accessed December 2, 2022.
8. National Cancer Institute. Cervical Cancer Screening. https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/screening. Accessed March 14, 2023.

Brought to you in partnership with MSD. Images via Pexels and Getty

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