What we know now about how cervical cancer is produced is that tobacco, alcohol, unbalanced nutrition, lack of sexual hygiene, or certain genetic characteristics are risk factors.
But in addition to the general carcinogenic factors, scientists have found a great culprit: the human papilloma virus (HPV).
In Romania, around 2,800 new cases of cervical cancer appear annually. In over 90% of them, women are infected with the human papilloma virus. Cancers of the vagina, vulva, anus or penis are much rarer, but, here, HPV is mostly involved.
More than 100 types (strains) of the human papilloma virus are known. About 40 of them have the preference to infect the genital organs and they transmit very easily: vaginal, oral, anal sex, the condom not being a very effective barrier, dirty hands, contaminated medical instruments, transmission from mother to fetus.
Once it enters the HPV body it cannot be eliminated. It is estimated that by the end of sexual life, around 80% of women contact one or more HPV strains.
About half of the approximately 40 HPV strains with genital tropism give, rather, the well-known genital vegetation or other rare lesions (flat condylomatosis, papulosis). The others, on the other hand, cause genital cancer. Virulence is variable from one type to another, with samples being the types 16 and 18, which seem to be responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer cases. Types 6 and 11 most often cause acuminate condyles (warts or genital vegetation).
It is important to know about the HPV vaccine
What is the ideal age to receive the vaccine and why?
The risk of contacting HPV is maximum during the period of sexual activity. Ideally, therefore, the vaccine should be made before this period.
The vaccine contains proteins similar to those of the virus structure. Research has shown that the body's immune response to the vaccine is optimal between the ages of 9-11 and 26 years and that it is maintained for a long time. This means that the production of antibodies prepared to destroy viral structural proteins is maximal, as is the rejection of a possible infection. Specialists say that the vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9 years old.
In the hope of reducing as much as possible the cervical cancer disease to the country's female population, the government is planning a long-term campaign for free vaccination of fourth-grade girls.
Why is it good for moms too?
Although with age, the possibility that an HPV infection is already installed is increasing, there is a chance that the strain may not be the most virulent. But the risk of contacting the other strains remains.
Specialists say that the vaccine is best to be given at any time until the end of the sexual life because it offers protection against strains not already contacted.
Vaccination of boys?
The study of the efficacy in male persons is ongoing. Penile cancers are very rare, but it will probably be possible to protect against developing vegetation and against contacting and transmitting the virus to their sexual partners.
Vaccination against HPV does not eliminate the risk of contact with a sexually transmitted disease and does not exempt us from regular doctor visits. However, a healthy life, optimism and confidence keep us from many troubles.
Read also Cervical Cancer Vaccine. What is it and how does it work? or Viruses, bacteria and diseases caused by them