Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Why Risk It? Protect Your Child against Cancer

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Why Risk It? Protect Your Child against Cancer

Article excerpt

Parents want their kids to grow up healthy and happy. Reducing their cancer risk is a significant help, and it's easier than you might think. By encouraging children to eat healthy, exercise and stay safe in the sun and by scheduling their recommended vaccinations, we can put them on the right path to lowering cancer risk later in life.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection with more than 100 different strands in existence. It's so common that an estimated nine of 10 sexually active people eventually will be infected with HPV. Often, it has no apparent symptoms, which makes it difficult to know when someone is infected. At least two strands of the virus have been shown to cause cervical, vaginal and vulva cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and head and neck cancers in both men and women. HPV can live for years in a person's body, so someone may not know he or she has the virus, or an associated cancer, until years after being intimate with someone who carries it.

In the past decade, HPV vaccination for adolescents has been shown to protect against at least five types of cancer, including some that can cause infertility, or worse. This vaccine is now recommended for all preteens, boys and girls, during their annual checkups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that girls and boys be vaccinated with a two-shot vaccine beginning around age 11 or 12. The second dose should be administered within a year. Three doses are recommended for those ages 15 and up. The vaccine can be administered until age 26, and being vaccinated after exposure to HPV helps to reduce the risk of contracting future HPV infections.

The HPV vaccine is safe and prevents more than 90 percent of HPV cases, greatly reducing our children's risk of cancer. Serious side effects are rare and similar to other vaccines; commonly reported symptoms include injection-site reactions such as brief soreness, redness or swelling, dizziness, fainting, nausea and headache. Like all vaccines, HPV vaccine is monitored on an ongoing basis to make sure it remains safe and effective. Ten years of follow-up information after vaccination is available and we have no reason to believe that the HPV vaccine loses any ability to provide protection over time. …

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