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Women's Health

Gardasil and Cervarix

05/17/2010

Question:

I am 36 years old and never had sex. I just seen on the news that Cervarix is approved now here in Canada. Both of those are for women up to the age of around 25. Would it be any use for me to get one of those vaccines? Does not being sexually active at this age reduce my risk of cerivical cancer such that I don`t need the vaccine?

Answer:

Both Cervarix and Gardasil are vaccines that prevent infection with common strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of most cervical cancer.  Cervarix prevents two strains that are high risk for causing cancer, while Gardasil prevents these two strains as well as two more that commonly cause genital warts. 

 

Because they cannot reverse the process of infection once exposure has already occurred, they have been tested on and marketed to young women and girls who are not likely to have been exposed yet.  There is no reason to think that the vaccines will work any differently on a 36 year-old than a 16 year-old, and should afford protection to someone of your age with no previous exposure who is at risk of a new infection.  However, such use would be "off label," meaning that it has not been approved for use in women over 26, and insurance companies will often refuse coverage in these cases.

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Response by:

Jonathan  A Schaffir, MD Jonathan A Schaffir, MD
Clnical Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University