There are 13 types of high-risk HPV that can cause cervical cancer-16 and 18 are the most common and do account for 70% of documented cervical cancers. Women who are vaccinated will still need to get regular pap tests since there are 11 additional strains of HPV that the vaccine doesn't protect.
Women are most likely to be exposed to HPV during their late teens/early 20s when they initiate sexual behavior. Most women (95% actually according to recently published data) will clear the virus within 2 years of exposure. Only about 5% of the population of women over age 30 will test HPV positive at any given time.
For HPV to cause cervical cancer it must persist in the body for many years. This is why smoking, bcp, and other situations that compromise immune function put women at higher risk for cervical cancer. However, with regular screening with either a yearly pap test, or for women aged 30 and older, combination testing with a Pap and the HPV test, cervical cancer can be prevented. More than 50% of cervical cancers occur in women who are not routinely screened, and the rest are due to a mix of infrequent screening or Pap test failures (the Pap can only detect precancerous lesions about 50-80% of the time which is why it needs to be done each year-the idea is that since cervical cancer is a slow growing disease, you will eventually catch with a Pap). However, adding the HPV test to the Pap test increases the chance you will pick up a cervical lesion to 99%. I like those odds a whole lot better. The HPV test can be done at the same time as the Pap and from the same sample as the Pap test (cervical fluid/cells).
Since very good testing is available, I am going that route. I asked my OB (before I switched to a midwife) for the HPV test and it came back negative. Since I'm over 30 and married my risk of cervical cancer at this point is VERY VERY low.
HPV cannot be passed from a mother to a baby during childbirth UNLESS the woman has open genital sores-and the HPV strains that cause warts are not associated with cervical cancer. The 13 high-risk types of HPV thrive in the warm squamous cells of the cervix. After exposure, they permeate the top layers of the cervix and multiply close to the transformation zone-as such HPV cannot "sit on the service" and be transmitted during childbirth.
There are rare cases of cervical cancer that occur in young women but these are VERY rare and a result of a genetic anomaly in the women's system that causes a proliferation of cells on the cervix-it's not caused by HPV at all. That is why we can only state that HPV causes the "vast majority" of cervical cancer cases-there will always be the random woman who was unfortunate enough to have a cellular mishap early in life that caused the problem. No vaccine can prevent against these occurrences.
There are many HPV vaccines in development-in 5-10 years we could see vaccines against all types of high-risk HPV types. Why jump on the bandwagon now? We have limited data about Gardasil and it's NOT going to eliminate cervical cancer. In 20-30 years we would see a reduction in cancer and a reduction in cervical dysplasia (precursur to cancer) but every girl and boy would have to be vaccinated for this to occur-not likely.
Given that very good testing is available that can prevent cervical cancer, I'm much more comfortable with that route. Perhaps in the future I can have confidence in an HPV vaccine, but right now I think it's just giving a lot of people false security. Routine screening has much better preventative results.
Just my two cents
I'm a total newbie here but this issue just irks me. School mandates? Unbelievable. Last I checked, HPV infections weren't running rampant through elementary schools so why the heck would we force parents to vaccinate their kids against this to get an education???