Updated: Apr 18, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we sometimes are against infectious diseases without effective vaccines, but what is the situation in skincare, and what is the role of HPV vaccines in skin health?
For many, when they hear about HPV vaccines, they only think of the prevention of cervical cancer (the cancer of the neck of the womb). However, HPV not only infects women, but men too, and can cause conditions in multiple locations, including genital and anal warts [1, 2].
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But what is HPV?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, which is a DNA virus [1, 2]. There are many sub-types of HPV which have the ability to infect different parts of the human body, including the skin, causing warts on a variety of body parts (e.g. palmar warts on hands and plantar warts on feet) . Some of these viruses are especially vicious and result in serious health conditions. There are the “high-risk types” which can lead to cancers (oncogenic types) at several locations (e.g. anogenital cancer, head and neck cancer), whereas the “low-risk types” cause condyloma acuminata i.e. anogenital warts, but do not result in cancers (non-oncogenic types) [1, 2].
What about vaccines?
Currently, in the European Union, quadrivalent (against types 6, 11, 16 and 18), bivalent (against HPV types 16 and 18) and nonavalent (against types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) preventive vaccines are available . Since types 6 and 11 are the low-risk virus types , the quadrivalent and nonavalent vaccines are those effective against anogenital warts .
Why do we need the vaccination?
The cancers in which HPV viruses are causative agents are devastating diseases. Albeit not as severe, the HPV related skin conditions, such as anogenital warts, affect the quality of life of those who develop them [4, 5, 6]. In addition, the treatment of warts can be a considerable financial burden , not to mention the emotional impact [4, 6] that a skin condition can cause. The quadrivalent vaccine can be administered in two doses from age 9 until age 13 . Meanwhile, the nonavalent vaccine can be administered from age 9, in two doses, until the age of 14 . If the first dose is given at the age of 14 or above (in case of the quadrivalent vaccine), or at the age of 15 or above (in case of the nonavalent vaccine), three doses should be received .
If you want to learn more about HPV, you can find useful information on the website of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) : https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/human-papillomavirus.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. 13th ed. Washington D.C. Public Health Foundation, 2015. pp. 175-186.
2. WHO. Human papillomavirus vaccines: WHO position paper, May 2017. Wkly Epidemiol Rec. 2017;92(19):241-268.
3. https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/human/referrals/human-papillomavirusvaccines-cervarix-gardasil-gardasil-9-silgard [Accessed on 17 November 2020]
4. Sénécal M, Brisson M, Maunsell E, Ferenczy A, Franco EL, Ratnam S, Coutlée F, Palefsky JM, Mansi JA. Loss of quality of life associated with genital warts: baseline analyses from a prospective study. Sex Transm Infect. 2011;87(3):209-215. doi:10.1136/sti.2009.039982
5. Woodhall SC, Jit M, Soldan K, Kinghorn G, Gilson R, Nathan M, Ross JD, Lacey CJN. The impact of genital warts: loss of quality of life and cost of treatment in eight sexual health clinics in the UK. Sex Transm Infect. 2011;87(6):458-463. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2011-050073
6. Paradisi A, Capizzi R, Ricci F, Di Pietro C, Abeni D, Tabolli S. Quality of life in patients with anogenital warts. Eur J Dermatol. 2013;23(6):837-842. doi:10.1684/ejd.2013.2171
7. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/human-papillomavirus [Accessed on 17 November 2020]
[Accessed on 17 November 2020]