Why Every College Student Should Learn More about HPV–Sponsored by Merck

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% our own.

Each day approximately 35 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer––that’s about 12,990 women a year! Cervical cancer can happen when a female is infected with certain types of HPV, and then abnormal cells develop on the cervix. From there, precancer and cancer can develop if the cells aren’t found through regular screening and treated. What you might not know is that most of these women may have been exposed to HPV in their teens and 20s. No one wants to think about cancer, but as college women, now is the time to get educated on ways to help prevent certain HPVrelated cancers that can develop later in life.

We’ve partnered with Merck to educate you on HPV. The information below is important, so make sure to listen up and take notes!

About HPV and how the virus spreads

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million people in the United States currently have HPV, and 14 million new infections occur each year. For most people, HPV clears on its own. But for others who don’t clear the virus, it can cause certain cancers and diseases in women and men. There is no way to know who will or won't clear the virus.

While more than 40 types of HPV infect the genital area, some types can have more serious consequences than others. Certain types of HPV are responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer, 30 percent of vulvar cancer, 70 to 75 percent of vaginal cancer, 85 to 90 percent of anal cancer AND other types of HPV are responsible for more than 90 percent of genital warts. That's why it’s important to learn about any and all preventative steps now.

HPV can be transmitted though any sort of sexual activity with someone who has HPV. While intercourse isn’t necessary, it’s definitely the most common way to contract the virus. It may take only one sexual encounter to become infected with HPV. The hard thing about the infection is that it often has no visible signs or symptoms, so you could have HPV and not even know it.

Who can get infected with HPV

Anyone can be infected with HPV, meaning both women AND men. And with nearly half of new infections occuring in people ages 15-24, it's likely that many may be exposed to HPV during college. Plus, with no visible signs and symptoms, students can pass HPV among one another without even realizing it. That's why, as college-aged women, now is an important time to educate yourself and your friends (yes, even the guys!) about HPV.

You may procrastinate on a lot of things in college, but talking to your doctor about HPV or visiting the campus health center should not be one of them.

How to protect yourself from HPV

As we said before, many people may be exposed to HPV in their teens and 20s. This is one of the reasons why it's so important to practice safe sex habits.

While there may be treatments available for the diseases HPV causes, there is no treatment for the HPV infection. However, there is a lot you can do to minimize the risk of contracting HPV in the first place. Obviously, abstaining from sex is the best way to protect yourself, but if you're not abstaining, it’s best to keep sex monogamous with an uninfected partner. Using protection correctly and consistently can also help limit your risk, so a physical barrier such as condoms is important to have on hand. But remember, HPV can affect areas that aren’t covered by a condom—so it may not fully protect against HPV.

Being proactive by getting regular pap tests, as recommended by your doctor, is also an important part of protecting yourself. By being proactive now, you can help protect yourself from certain HPVrelated cancers and diseases.

Now that you’re equipped with more information, talk to your doctor or visit your campus health center to learn more about ways to help protect yourself from certain HPV-related cancers and diseases, including regular screening and vaccination.

For more information about HPV visit takeastanagainsthpv.com