Health officials say 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have a strain of HPV that is a high risk for cancers. 

NEW FINDINGS | HPV vaccine: What to know about human papillomavirus

FDA expands use vaccine that prevents cervical cancer to adults up to age 45

The Food and Drug Administration recently expanded use of the HPV vaccine to include people ages 27 to 45.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is sexually transmitted and is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.

The CDC says about 14 million people — male and female — are infected with HPV each year, and most never know it. About 12,000 women are diagnosed with and about 4,000 women die from cervical cancer caused by certain HPV viruses. HPV viruses are also associated with several other forms of cancer affecting men and women.

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In most cases, HPV goes away on its own, the CDC says. But when it doesn’t, it can cause genital warts and even cancer.

HPV cancer usually has no symptoms until it is advanced, very serious and hard to treat, the CDC says. That’s why vaccination and screening are important.

The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, was previously recommended for ages 9-26. According to cancer.gov, Gardasil 9 is the only HPV vaccine available for use in the United States.

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The FDA’s approval of expanding the vaccine is based on a study of 3,200 women ages 27-45. The study found Gardasil to be 88 percent effective “in the prevention of a combined endpoint of persistent infection, genital warts, vulvar and vaginal precancerous lesions, cervical precancerous lesions, and cervical cancer related to HPV types covered by the vaccine,” the FDA said in a press release.

“Today’s approval represents an important opportunity to help prevent HPV-related diseases and cancers in a broader age range,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the release. ”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected with the HPV types covered by the vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers, or 31,200 cases every year, from ever developing.”

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The vaccine won’t work on any HPV strain already infecting a person, but it can prevent the person from contracting the other strains. This is why the FDA recommends the vaccine for preteens and teens who are not yet sexually active.

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