Talk with your child about the HPV vaccine

Special to the Herald-LeaderOctober 16, 2011 

Have you talked to your son or daughter about HPV vaccination? Such a conversation is one of the most important that parents can have with their teens.

A recent study at Ohio State University found that college-aged women were more likely to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus if they had talked to their mothers about it.

The results show that communication between a daughter and her mother can be helpful in the daughter's decision-making.

The key for daughters getting the vaccine was having mothers who discussed it with them and who were confident that the vaccine was safe and effective in preventing HPV-related diseases, the study found.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. At any time, an estimated 20 million people in the United States have genital HPV infections that can be transmitted to others, and every year, about 5.5 million people become infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are many types of HPV, and some strains can cause cancer, including cervical cancer (the most common), oral cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer and penile cancer. HPV also can cause genital warts.

There are two vaccines for HPV: Gardasil and Cervarix. They work by preventing the most common strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer; Gardasil might also prevent some strains of HPV that can cause genital warts. The vaccines have been thoroughly reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and are safe and effective.

Because men can carry HPV and transmit it sexually to their partners, the FDA has approved the use of Gardasil in both genders, from ages 9 to 26.

Because of this, it is recommended that parents also talk to their sons about being vaccinated.

Having that conversation with your son or daughter might be difficult, but research shows that it is an important step in ensuring that they make healthy decisions about their sexuality. Parents who are nervous about bringing up the topic can focus on how the vaccine is safe and effective, and that it prevents cancer.

Talking to your son and daughter about the HPV vaccine is important, and it can make a substantial difference in the health of your son or daughter later in life.

Don't be afraid to sit down and have this conversation with them. Do it for your children's health and for their future.

Brandy Reeves is a certified sexuality educator and health education coordinator in UK HealthCare's University Health Service.

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