A new survey reveals that public awareness of the fact that the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) causes a variety of malignancies is declining in the United States.
As per US News, in 2014, nearly 78% of respondents were aware that HPV could cause cervical cancer; by 2020, that number had fallen to 70%. In unvaccinated individuals, the common virus can also cause oral, anal, vaginal, vulvar, and penile malignancies.
“Over 90% of HPV-associated cancers could be prevented with the HPV vaccination, yet vaccine uptake remains suboptimal,” said Eric Adjei Boakye, an assistant scientist at Henry Ford Health in Detroit and lead author of the study.
“Given the connections between HPV-associated cancer awareness and HPV vaccination uptake, it is crucial that we increase the population’s awareness of this link, as it may aid in increasing vaccination rates,” he emphasized.
Some HPV viruses are low risk, while others are high-risk, and they can be transmitted through anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse. Anyone who has sexual contact is susceptible to infection, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the majority of individuals become infected with HPV within a few months or years of becoming sexually active.
The researchers analyzed Health Information National Trends Survey data from five time intervals between 2014 and 2020 for the study. At each timepoint, between 2,000 and 2,350 individuals responded. According to the researchers, awareness that HPV could cause anal, oral, and penile malignancies was low throughout the study.
From approximately 28% in 2014 to approximately 27% in 2020, knowledge of HPV’s link to anal cancer decreased marginally. From just over 31% in 2014 to about 28% in 2020, awareness of the oral cancer connection decreased. Similarly, awareness of the association with penile cancer decreased from approximately 30% to 28%.
55% of American adolescents and preadolescents have received all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine. The government’s aim is for 80 percent of adolescents to be fully vaccinated. The survey results were scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Orlando, Florida, from April 14 to April 19. Before publication in a peer-reviewed journal, findings presented at medical conferences should be regarded as preliminary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States recommends that boys and girls receive the HPV vaccination between the ages of 11 and 12. Two dosages are recommended for those who begin the series before their 15th birthday, while three doses are recommended for those who begin the series later. The authors of the study noted that initial public health campaigns surrounding the vaccine created significant associations with cervical cancer.
When the HPV vaccine was first approved and recommended, there was a preponderance of female-centric discourse. As a consequence, many people are aware that HPV can cause cervical cancer but not other cancers. According to Adjei Boakye’s statement in an AACR press release, “Our findings suggest that interventions to increase awareness of all HPV-associated cancers would benefit public health.”
Henry Ford Health funded the research.