HPV Vaccination Coverage Too Low

HPV related cancers have been declining but rates of vaccination are still too low

(RxWiki News) It’s hard to believe there are two vaccines out there approved to prevent HPV-related cancers. The trick is getting all three doses within six months to make them effective.

A recent report looked at rates of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the US since 2000. Rates of HPV-related cancers have been slowly declining in both men and women each year, but researchers have found room for improvement.

Only around one-third of girls in the US received HPV vaccinations in 2010. Authors called for an increase in vaccination in the US in both boys and girls to lower rates of HPV-related cancers.

"Talk to your doctor about HPV vaccinations."

Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, Vice-President of Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, GA, worked with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) and other health organizations to investigate HPV in the US.

For the study, data from ACS, CDC, NCI and NAACCR from 1975 to 2009 concerning all HPV-related cancers, deaths from those cancers and the number of Pap smears and HPV vaccinations received in the US was collected and analyzed.

HPV-related cancers can occur in the mouth, throat, anus, penis, vulva, vagina and cervix.

HPV vaccines, Gardasil or quadrivalent and Cervarix or bivalent, must be taken in three doses over the course of six months. Bivalent is recommended for females between the ages of 9 and 26 to protect against HPV 16 and 18. Quadrivalent is recommended for girls and boys to protect against HPV strains 16 and 18 as well as 6 and 11, which are associated with genital warts.

There are over 150 strains of HPV, but the two most common cancer-causing HPV strains are called 16 and 18. Those two strains are responsible for approximately 70 percent of all HPV-related cancers.

Results of this large-scale analysis showed HPV-related cancers have been in decline by a rate of 1.5 percent per year from 2000 to 2009. This decline was seen in both men and women, in all major ethnic and racial groups and in most cancer sites.

In 2009, HPV-related cancers occurred in 13,466 males and 21,342 females, comprising 3.3 percent of all cancers in the US.

In 2010, 32 percent of girls aged 13 to 17 years received all three necessary doses of the HPV vaccine.

The vaccine coverage was lower in Southern states, with 20 percent coverage in Alabama and 14 percent in Mississippi. Only 14 percent of uninsured girls were vaccinated.

The authors concluded that higher rates of vaccination coverage in both boys and girls could help prevent more HPV-associated cancers in the future.

This study was published in January in the Journal of the Nation Cancer Institute.

The American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries provided funding for this project.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
January 21, 2013