Millions More People Can Now Benefit from This Anticancer Vaccine

Updated: Oct. 16, 2018

A vaccine originally approved only for younger people could protect millions of older Americans too, research shows. Find out whether you could be one of them.

Millions More People Can Now Benefits from This Anti-Cancer VaccineREDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

In 2006, science gained a distinct advantage over the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus known to cause cancer and other diseases in both men and women: That’s when the FDA first approved the anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil. In the decade that followed, even greater strides were made in the form of Gardasil 9, which is effective against nine different HPV strains. Until now, Gardasil 9 had been available only for people between the ages of 9 and 26, but in an exciting new development, the FDA has OK’d Gardasil 9 for adults between the ages of 27 and 45. Check out 10 dangerous myths about HPV.

HPV is a widespread public health issue—about 14 million Americans becoming infected each year. Of those, roughly 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 will die. Men not only can pass the virus but also face the risk of anal and esophageal cancer, among other types of cancer. Experts estimate that over a recent two-year period, nearly 23 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 59 had some form of HPV. Find out 9 facts about cervical cancer.

Originally, the FDA limited Gardasil 9 to people between the ages of 9 and 26 because research suggested that the vaccine was most effective for that age group, in which HPV infection was less likely. But medical professionals had begun to suspect that Gardasil might benefit people older than 26. Then, in a groundbreaking study that followed 3,200 women between the ages of 27 and 46 for an average of 3.5 years, Gardasil was found to be 88 percent effective in preventing the infection. Ignore these 10 myths about vaccines.

Follow-up research confirmed the results—and revealed that men could benefit too. “Today’s approval represents an important opportunity to help prevent HPV-related diseases and cancers in a broader age range,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected . . . has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers, or 31,200 cases every year, from ever developing.” Although the vaccine does not protect you from an HPV strain if you are already infected with it, it will still protect against other strains.  If you’re worried about getting a vaccine, check out 40 facts about vaccines that these medical professionals wish you knew.