EUGENE, Ore. -- The human papillomavirus (HPV) is extremely common and can lead to six types of cancer, but still, many people are entirely unaware of the virus and its vaccine, experts say.
According to Oregon Medical Group OB-GYN Dr. Naomi Light, the prevalence of the virus is all the more reason to take note and also take preventative measures.
"What's surprisingly more common is that some people don't seem to be aware of HPV itself," said Light.
About 80 percent of sexually active people come into contact with the virus within 10 years of beginning sexual activity.
"That's why it's recommended to get the vaccine prior to sexual activity or within the first 10 years of sexual activity," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 26-years-old or younger get the HPV vaccination, and it is also recommended as a routine vaccination at the age of 11 or 12.
Experts say that almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV.
"What's really great in the United States is that this is a really uncommon cancer, but it is an aggressive cancer," said Light.
Cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and throat can also be caused by HPV. According to Light, men also carry the virus, but effects like higher risk for genital warts and penile malignancy are less substantial. The vaccine is still recommended regardless of gender.
"It's already made a significant impact on the prevention of cervical cancer in addition to routine pap smears and screening at your annual exams," said Light.