Persistent infection with oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) is a necessary cause of cervical cancer. Moreover, HPV type 16 (and to a lesser degree HPV type 18) is linked with more rare cancers, namely cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, oropharynx and larynx. Effective prophylactic vaccines have been developed. In this review, we briefly address immunological aspects of HPV infection and the results of HPV vaccination trials. Internationally standardized monitoring and evaluation of prophylactic HPV vaccination programmes will be essential for arriving at the most (cost-)effective strategies for cancer control.