LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

Each year about 27,000 men and women in the US are affected by HPV related cancers.

It's the most common sexually transmitted virus in the nation. The virus can lead to several forms of cancers in both men and women.

In La Crosse County only 37-percent of females and 13-percent of males aged 13 to 17 are vaccinated against the virus and because the vaccine isn't mandatory for middle school aged children doctors say parents should have their kids vaccinated before it's too late.

“By the time a person reached age 26 if they haven’t been vaccinated already, they've probably already been exposed to the virus. The vaccine isn't going to do them a lot of good at this point. It is a very common virus, so most people by age 26 if they've been sexually active, they've been exposed previously,” said La Crosse County Public Health Nurse Christine Gillespie.

Anyone 18 and younger may qualify for a free HPV vaccine at their local health department. For more information on the vaccination you can go to www.cdc.gov.