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Despite how the popular saying goes, what you don’t know can hurt you. And most people don’t know about the link between certain viruses and cancer.

Lorena Saenz Gonzalez

If left untreated, hepatitis B and C and the human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to certain types of cancer. But whether you’re a parent, a young adult or a baby boomer, knowing more about the link between viruses and cancer could help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

A 2016 study by the Prevent Cancer Foundation found nearly three-fourths of adults were unaware the hepatitis B vaccine or hepatitis C treatment can reduce the risk of liver cancer. In Texas, approximately 4,000 men and women will be diagnosed with liver cancer in 2017. In fact, liver cancer mortality is the fastest-rising rate of cancer death in this country.

Sharing information about the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B and C treatments, could help reverse this trend. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective, and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for newborns, children who were not vaccinated at birth and adults who are at increased risk. Although no vaccine exists for hepatitis C, curative treatment options are available. By treating the viral infections, you can prevent liver cancer and other serious liver diseases.

Certain minority groups are at increased risk for hepatitis B or C—if you are African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic, talk to a health care professional about getting tested for these viruses or vaccinated for hepatitis B. Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) should also be tested for hepatitis C.

There is a similar lack of knowledge about HPV, and more than half of adults in the Prevent Cancer Foundation survey were unaware that HPV infection can also lead to cancer if left untreated. Every year more than 27,000 men and women in the U.S. are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV, but if vaccination rates increased, this number could be greatly reduced. The CDC now recommends two doses of the HPV vaccine for all girls and boys ages 11 to 12, when their immune system response is strongest.

Before summer ends, make the time—and make an appointment—for your health and the health of your loved ones. You may be one vaccination away from preventing cancer.

Editor’s Note: Statistics provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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