Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US. The virus comes in over 150 forms, and approximately 4 of these can be caught through direct skin-to-skin contact during all types of sex.
Some forms of the virus, such as HPV-6 and HPV-11, only cause minor conditions, such as genital warts. The highest risk forms of HPV however, HPV-16 and HPV-18, account for over 70% of cases of cervical cancer and over 5% of all cancer cases world wide.
There are two vaccines that are currently available for HPV. One of them, Cervarix, protects against forms of HPV that cause cervical cancer, whilst the other vaccine, Gardasil, also protects against forms of HPV that cause anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers and genital warts.
It is recommended that boys and girls aged 11-12 years old receive the vaccine, preferably before the become sexually active and have been exposed to a risk of contracting any forms of the virus.