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HPV vaccine approved for prevention of head and neck cancers

June 23, 2020 12015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 12 approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9, produced by Merck, for the prevention of oropharyngeal and other head and neck cancers. The vaccine is already recommended for the prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancer in females and males ages 9 to 45. The FDA’s latest approval extends the vaccine’s indication to include the prevention of head and neck cancers.

STAT News reported that the FDA is granting an “accelerated approval” of the newest version, meaning the approval is contingent on the availability of more data that verifies and describes the vaccine’s clinical benefit. A trial of the vaccine’s efficacy against persistent HPV infections of the throat is now underway.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2015 showed oropharynx cancers to be the most common malignancies caused by HPV with an estimated 13,500 cases annually followed by HPV-related cervical cancers at 10,900 annual cases.

Dental health care professionals can help to reduce the growing rates of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers by educating their patients or minor patients’ guardians about the link between HPV and oropharyngeal cancers. Additionally, heavy smoking, chewing tobacco, chronic inflammation, and poor oral hygiene are among the high-risk factors for head and neck cancers.

Dental professionals can also recommend the HPV vaccination to their patients. 

The June 2021 issue of the Journal of the California Dental Association will focus on head and neck cancers, including the relationship of HPV to head and neck cancers. 

Resources from the American Dental Association include the ADA Science Institute-developed topic page on head and neck cancer, the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable guide for dental health care providers, and a patient brochure on oral health and HPV vaccine.

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