Breast Cancer and the HPV Vaccine: Is It Safe?

There is no specific research on the safety and effectiveness of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in people with breast cancer. However, there is research to support getting the vaccine for people who have cancer, in general.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is spread through direct sexual contact. Almost all cervical cancer cases can be attributed to an HPV infection. Getting the HPV vaccine will help reduce the likelihood of developing cervical cancer.

This article will discuss the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in people with breast cancer. It will also cover the vaccine's side effects and who should not get it.

Woman with face mask getting vaccinated

Is the HPV Vaccine Safe and Effective for People With Breast Cancer?

The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent cervical cancer, genital warts, and other cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, from the years 2015 to 2018, reports of serious health issues after the HPV vaccine were rare. There were issues reported for approximately 1.8 per 100,000 doses, which equals 0.0018%.

Limited Research

There is limited research on the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in people with breast cancer.

It is generally not recommended for people with cancer to receive live virus vaccines. This is because cancer causes a weakened immune system (immunosuppression) and, in this environment, the live virus in the vaccine could multiply and cause harm.

However, the HPV vaccine is an attenuated—or dead—virus vaccine. Therefore, there is no risk for the virus to multiply and cause an infection. Yet, there is concern that someone with cancer, who has a weakened immune system, will not be able to create an immune response to the vaccine to build protection against future infections.

Studies do recommend that all young adults with cancer, in general, get the HPV vaccine. A 2015 study reported that immunosuppression is not a reason to avoid the HPV vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that people should continue to follow the HPV vaccine schedule but does warn that those with compromised immune systems may have less of a response to the vaccine.

What If You're Pregnant?

Pregnant people should not get the HPV vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the vaccine does not cause problems to babies born to mothers who have had the vaccine, but more research needs to be done.

Vaccines must pass rigorous development and testing procedures to demonstrate their safety for authorized use in the United States.

Which Type of HPV Vaccine Should People With Breast Cancer Get?

The one HPV vaccine available in the United States is Gardasil 9 (9vHPV). Anyone with breast cancer should talk to their healthcare provider before getting the Gardasil 9 vaccine or any vaccines.

Are There Any Side Effects of Taking the HPV Vaccine?

There are a few potential side effects of the HPV vaccine. Most of the side effects are a result of the body's immune response to the immunization. Side effects include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain

Side effects should resolve in one or two days. If they last longer, contact a healthcare provider.

Vaccine safety is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC. There is a monitoring system called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in which healthcare providers and patients can report adverse reactions to vaccines.

Risks of Cervical Cancer for People with Breast Cancer

Research does not support that people with breast cancer are more at risk for cervical cancer.

However, people who have had an HPV infection are more likely to get cervical cancer. Some studies suggest that HPV can be a risk factor for breast cancer as well.

What Should People Avoid Before Taking the HPV Vaccine?

People should avoid sex for the first time before getting the HPV vaccine. HPV is spread through direct sexual contact. The best way to prevent getting an HPV infection is to get the HPV vaccine before you start having sex.

Who Should Not Get the HPV Vaccine

According to the CDC, the following people should not receive the HPV vaccine:

  • People with sensitivity to yeast
  • People with a moderate to severe illness
  • People who are pregnant

If you have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any part of the HPV vaccine, do not get it and let your healthcare provider know.

Where Can You Get the HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is widely available. You can get the vaccine in the following locations:

  • Healthcare provider offices
  • Pharmacies
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics

Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine available in the United States, is listed for about $250 per dose. Most insurance plans cover the cost of the vaccine. If you don't have insurance, you can look into programs available to help pay for the vaccine.

When Should You Get the HPV Vaccine?

The CDC recommends that the HPV vaccine be given when children are 11 and 12 years old. It is a two-dose series that is given six to 12 months apart.

If you do not get the vaccine until you are 15 years or older, you will need a three-dose series of vaccine.

In general, people over the age of 26 who have not yet received the vaccine, do not need to get it. People 26 years and over who haven't had the vaccine have likely been exposed to HPV and will have minimal benefit from being vaccinated.


Research recommends that people with cancer receive the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9. However, there is no research on whether people with breast cancer should get the vaccine. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing an HPV infection which can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.

A Word From Verywell

If you have breast cancer and are taking immunosuppressants, consult with your healthcare provider before taking any new medication or receiving a vaccine. Your body will respond differently to vaccines and medications, which could be ineffective or even harmful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can people with cancer get vaccines?

    If you have cancer, you may or may not be able to get certain vaccines. It will depend on the type of vaccine and the medications you are taking. Consult with a healthcare provider for specific advice.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. World Health Organization. Cervical cancer.

  3. National Cancer Institute. Despite proven safety of HPV vaccines, more parents have concerns.

  4. UpToDate. Immunizations in adults with cancer.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV).

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV vaccination is safe and effective.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV vaccine information for young women.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS).

  9. Salman NA, Davies G, Majidy F, et al. Association of high risk human papillomavirus and breast cancer: a UK based studySci Rep. 2017;7(1):43591. doi:10.1038/srep43591

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC vaccine price list.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination: what everyone should know.

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.