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HPV Vaccine Doesn't Change Sexual Behavior, Study Says

< Oct. 17, 2012 > -- Getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) doesn't encourage girls to become sexually active, a new study says.

Photo of a group of teens sitting on school steps

Some forms of HPV can cause cervical cancer, and a vaccine can help protect girls and young women against contracting those forms. The CDC recommends the vaccines for all girls ages 11 or 12.

But some parents apparently don't want their daughters vaccinated because they fear that will encourage sexual activity. Fewer than half of girls who are old enough to get the vaccine actually receive it.

For the study, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in California looked at the health records of nearly 1,400 girls ages 11 through 12 who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente health plan in 2006 and 2007. About 500 of the girls had received at least one dose of an HPV vaccine, and 900 had had other recommended vaccines for their age group but not HPV.

Researchers looked at three years of follow-up data on the girls.

No differences noted

They found no significant difference in infection with the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, pregnancy, or counseling for birth control between the two groups. This suggests that getting the HPV vaccine didn't change the girls' sexual behavior.

"We're hoping that this will offer some validation to what we've seen in the past, where girls and young women have indicated that they wouldn't change their sexual behaviors if they got the vaccine," says lead author Robert Bednarczyk, Ph.D.

Joanne Mortimer, M.D., at City of Hope, a cancer research hospital in Duarte, Calif., agrees. This study, she says, should put "to rest any concerns that kids who know they've been vaccinated are safer [from the virus] and can have more sex."

Other groups at risk

The HPV vaccines - Gardasil and Cervarix - are also recommended for girls and young women ages 13 through 26. Gardasil, which also prevents genital warts, is also recommended for males ages 11 through 21.

The vaccine is "terrifically important," Dr. Mortimer says, because it has the potential to eradicate cervical cancer, if not cancers of the anus and certain cancers of the head and neck, which are also caused by HPV.

The study was published online this week in the journal Pediatrics.

For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.

HPV: A Common STD

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S., with more than 20 million Americans currently infected, according to the CDC.

HPV is most common in women and men in their late teens and early 20s. HPV is so common that at least half of sexually active men and women get it at some point.

Many types of HPV infection cause no symptoms. For some types of HPV, the most visible symptoms are genital warts, which can be found on the penis and around or inside the anus in men, and on the vulva, around or inside the anus, inside the vagina, and on the cervix in women. HPV warts are usually small, flesh-colored, and flat or bumpy growths that appear singly or in clusters and can have a cauliflower-like appearance. They don't often cause pain but may cause itching. Warts inside the vagina or anus or on the cervix aren't visible and may not cause any symptoms.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Genital HPV Infection

CDC - HPV Vaccination

Pediatrics - Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year-Olds