Federal researchers have found that thanks to the human papillomavirus vaccine, introduced only a decade ago, fewer young women have been infected with HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. The prevalence of the virus among teenage girls has fallen by two thirds, while rates for women in their 20s (with lower vaccination rates) have decreased by one third. Despite the vaccine’s proven effectiveness, its use has spread relatively slowly in the U.S., as it is largely optional and only 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have been immunized. The new study, published in Pediatrics, shows the need for increased vaccination coverage. “The vaccine is more effective than we thought,” said Debbie Saslow, a public health expert in HPV vaccination and cervical cancer at the American Cancer Society. Some 14 million Americans are infected with HPV each year, and while a vast majority of those people clear the virus quickly, some strains have been shown to cause genital warts as well as cervical, anal, penile, and mouth and throat cancers.
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