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Joint statement empowers parents, young adults and physicians to act to increase vaccination rates and screenings to eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer
Nearly 80 million Americans—one out of every four people—are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). And of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent the infections that cause these cancers, HPV vaccination remains low in the United States.
Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah has partnered with 69 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers to issue a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination and screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nations’ physicians, parents, and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to eliminate several different types of cancer in men and women.
"HPV vaccination is cancer prevention," said Deanna Kepka, PhD, MPH HCI investigator and assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah. "It is our best defense in stopping HPV infection in our youth and preventing HPV-related cancers in our communities. We ask health care providers to join forces to educate parents, guardians, and colleagues about the importance and benefits of HPV vaccination."
Vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the United States. According to 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), less than 50 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys completed the recommended vaccine series. Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and a lack of knowledge among parents. HPV causes multiple cancers, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat), and other genital cancers.
"We have the opportunity to eliminate multiple HPV-related cancers beginning with cervical cancer. To accomplish this goal, we need to utilize our most important tool—HPV vaccination," said Anna R. Giuliano, PhD, director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center. "We are asking health care providers to stand with us and recommend the HPV vaccine. Parents can join with us by asking their doctors about vaccination."
HPV experts from the nation’s top cancer centers, along with partners from the NCI, CDC, and the American Cancer Society, are meeting June 7-8 in Salt Lake City to discuss a path forward to eliminating cancers caused by HPV, including ways to reduce barriers to vaccination, and to share education, training, and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.
"The United States has an unprecedented opportunity to not just prevent cancers caused by HPV but to eliminate them. This means getting to a point in time when cancers such as cervical cancer are no longer diagnosed in our country," said Giuliano.
This is the third year that all NCI-designated cancer centers have come together to issue a national call to action. All 70 cancer centers unanimously share the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents, and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for the elimination of HPV-related cancers.