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Have You Heard of HPV? Here’s What to Know Now To Best Protect Kids Later in Life

WellnessPost Category - WellnessWellness - Post Category - HealthHealth

Both men and women are vulnerable to HPV infection and at risk for developing related cancers. Here’s what to know to help protect your kids now

As parents we all do our best to set our children up for future success: we invest in enrichment classes to enhance their education, we seek out parent volunteer opportunities to secure a coveted spot in primary schools, and we encourage frequent playdates to build our kids’ social skills. We also take steps to support their future health: regular dental checkups, routine health screenings and vaccinations all play a role in protecting our kids against future health concerns.

HPV can lead to cancers

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the concerns we ought to be extra vigilant about. HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact (sexual intercourse or genital touching) with an infected person. This means that although it is often the case, sexual intercourse is not necessary to transmit the virus1. However, HPV cannot be transmitted by sitting on a toilet seat or touching common surfaces2. HPV infections often have no symptoms, but once infected, people can pass it on to others unknowingly3. The danger is that if the virus persists in an infected person, it can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus4. Around the world, HPV is responsible for about 99% of cervical cancer cases, up to 78% of vaginal cancer cases and up to 91% of anal cancer cases5. HPV is no respecter of gender – both males and females are vulnerable to infection and at risk for developing related cancers. In fact, it’s so common that about 8 of 10 men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives1.

Talk to your doctor about how to best protect your sons and daughters from HPV

These are some sobering statistics! What can we as parents do? Thankfully, it’s within our power as parents to help protect our children from HPV infections that could cause serious health problems later in life. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and the high-risk types may cause cancers. These are the ones associated with cervical, vaginal and anal cancers.1

 HPV vaccine

First, let’s talk to our doctors about preventative measures available. We see how other countries approach protecting kids against serious diseases. Alongside routine health checks, the HPV vaccine is recommended for males and females by ages 11-12 in the US6 and 9-25 in Australia7 where cases of pre-cancer of the cervix in women, and genital warts in both men and women have become less common. Before an individual becomes exposed to the virus, the HPV vaccine is a preventative step1 that can start from as early as 9 years old and up to 45 years old. The HPV vaccination is known to protect the body for at least 10 years and may offer lifelong protection. In Singapore, HPV vaccination is recommended under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) and National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS) for all females aged 9 to 26.2

Sexual abstinence and monogamy can also prevent genital HPV infection. When our girls reach their 20s, especially if they are sexually active, it will be important for them to have regular checkups to detect high-risk HPV cases and screenings to test for abnormal cell growth that could be precancerous.9

Don’t leave it until your kids are grown-ups!  Talk to your doctor about the 14 high-risk HPV types and how you can best protect your sons and daughters from HPV and related cancers now. Find a clinic near you here.

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.

Brought to you in partnership with MSD


1. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Questions and answers about human papillomavirus (HPV). January 2020. Accessed 28 June 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.
Lead image via Pexels (Ketut Subiyanto) and 2 image by Unsplash

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