Cancer risk increased by HPV: vaccination protects women and men

Vaccination can protect against infection with cancer-causing HPV types

Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are pathogens that can cause inflammation and skin changes such as warts. Some types of viruses also increase the risk of certain tumors, especially cervical cancer. Vaccination can protect both women and men.

An international research team recently reported in the journal Nature Genetics about an investigation that confirmed that human papillomaviruses (HPV) are also among the virus types that can promote cancer. The so-called “International HPV Awareness Day” on March 4th aims to raise awareness of cancer risk from HPV and preventive measures. Vaccination can protect against infection with the most important cancer-causing HPV types - and thus prevent the development of cancer.

Infections usually go undetected

As the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) explains in a current release, human papilloma viruses (HPV) are widespread and infect both women and men, often during the first sexual contact.

Almost every person becomes infected with the virus at some point in their lives - although the infection in most cases goes undetected and subsides on its own. However, twelve of the more than 200 HPV types known to date are classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as carcinogenic.

For Germany alone, experts assume that around 7,000 people develop HPV-related cancer each year - especially cervical cancer.

The viruses can also cause cancer in the mouth and throat, in the intestine and in the male genital area. Both genders are therefore at risk.

Increase awareness of cancer risk from HPV

The "International HPV Awareness Day", which has been held on March 4th since 2018, aims to raise awareness of cancer risk from HPV and to draw attention to preventive measures.

Because, according to the DKFZ, many of the HPV-related cancers can most probably be prevented by an HPV vaccination.

"HPV vaccination is the central element for protection against HPV-induced tumors," explains Michael Baumann, Scientific Director of the DKFZ. "The DKFZ therefore strongly advises you to have your daughters and sons vaccinated in order to protect them from these avoidable cancers."

Vaccination for girls and boys

The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has been providing HPV vaccination for girls since 2007. Since 2018, the recommendation has been applicable to boys and girls between the ages of nine and 14. Vaccination of both sexes is intended not only to protect girls and women from cervical cancer, but also to protect boys from HPV-induced cancers.

However, the vaccination rate in Germany is still not sufficient for comprehensive protection. According to the information, this is only given from a vaccination rate of at least 70 percent.

"Germany was among the pioneers when it came to introducing vaccination," explains Nobila Ouédraogo, public health expert at the DKFZ. "However, Germany lags far behind in international vaccination rates."

This applies especially to the south of the republic. While good quotas of around 60 percent are achieved among 15-year-old girls in the new federal states, the figure is just 35 percent in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

For comparison: The Scandinavian countries and Australia report vaccination rates of 80 to 90 percent. In fact, scientific studies show that there have been significantly fewer cervical cancers diagnosed in Australia since the vaccination program was launched.

"The vaccines that are currently on the market are considered safe and well tolerated," said Susanne Weg-Remers, head of the Cancer Information Service (KID) at the German Cancer Research Center.

"Missed vaccinations can be made up to the 18th birthday. And even if sexual intercourse has already taken place, the vaccination can still make sense. “There is no one hundred percent protection, but everyone and everyone can do something to prevent cancer. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ): "HPV Awareness Day" on March 4 - Vaccination protects women and men, (accessed: 03.03.2020), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
  • Marc Zapatka, Ivan Borozan, Daniel S. Brewer, Murat Iskar, Adam Grundhoff, Malik Alawi, Nikita Desai, Holger Sülmann, Holger Moch, PCAWG Pathogens, Colin S. Cooper, Roland Eils, Vincent Ferretti, Peter Lichter & PCAWG Consortium: The landscape of viral associations in human cancers; in: Nature Genetics, (published: 05.02.2020), Nature Genetics

Video: HPV and Cancer Risk (January 2022).