Parents’ sexual issues put kids at risk for cancer

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HOUSTON, TX- Every 20 minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with an HPV-associated cancer, but less than half of American kids get the vaccine to fight HPV (human papillomavirus), according to recently released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says 79 million Americans are infected with HPV right now, and 14 million more get it each year. It’s the most commonly sexually-transmitted infection. Most the time, your body fights off the virus, but in some folks, it can turn deadly, causing cervical cancer, certain head and and neck cancers, penile cancer and genital warts.

“(Parents) get uncomfortable because it is a sexually transmitted virus,” explains Dr. Lois Ramondetta, a professor of gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson, “and they’re saying that their children aren’t having sex. We know that. We are trying to give it when they’re best able to respond to the vaccine to develop the immunity that’s gonna protect them later on in life.”

HPV vaccine is suggested for pre-teen girls and boys before they are exposed to the virus. “We know the immune systems are best able to handle the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 12, meaning that they will respond and develop a strong immunity during those ages. That immunity is much stronger than if you give the vaccine even to a 16 or 18 year old,” says Dr. Ramondetta.

For more on HPV and Dr. Ramondetta’s crusade against it, check out this month’s Houstonia.