HPV

The updated childhood immunization schedule, released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes a couple tweaks to vaccine recommendations for older children and teens.

One officially moves the recommendation for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine a few years earlier for children with a history of sexual abuse and adds a version of the HPV vaccine that protects against nine strains of the virus. Another offers all older teens the option of a meningitis vaccine previously recommended only for high-risk children.

Gabriel Spitzer

The human papillomavirus is a bit like a tiny hacker — black hat, of course — that sneaks into your cells, hijacks your hardware and uses it to copy itself. For nearly 80 million Americans, this is happening right now, and nearly all sexually-active people will pick up HPV at one time or another.

For a smaller number of us, that bit of forced entry touches off a chain of events that leads to cancer — mainly cervical cancer, but also penile, rectal, throat and tongue cancers. If scientists could figure out exactly how that happens, they might able to intervene and disrupt the process.