It’s the most common type of sexually transmitted disease — but apparently not common knowledge that it can cause various types of cancer.
A survey by the American Association for Cancer Research has found a decline in awareness that human papillomavirus, or HPV, is linked to cervical cancer, as well as anal, oral and penile cancer.
Researchers noted knowledge of the link between the virus and cancer was a driving point towards people getting the HPV vaccination — which is well below the government’s desired rate.
Using data collected by the Health Information National Trends Survey, respondents were asked, “Do you think HPV can cause i) anal; ii) cervical; iii) oral; and iv) penile cancers?” Responses were “yes,” “no” and “not sure.”
Researchers found the respondents understanding that HPV can cause cervical cancer dropped by 7% — from 77.6% in 2014 to 70% in 2020.
Around 30% of survey participants were aware that HPV can lead to penile, throat or anal cancers.
“Over 90% of HPV-associated cancers could be prevented with the HPV vaccination, yet vaccine uptake remains suboptimal,” the study’s lead author, Eric Adjei Boakye, said in a press release.
About 54.5% of US adolescents have received all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine while the government’s target is to achieve an 80% vaccine rate for those between the ages of 10 to 19.
Boakye said increased public awareness may help vaccine rates.
“One of the reasons why the vaccination rate is low is the fact that people are not aware that it actually prevents cancer,” he told NBC.
The HPV vaccine for girls and women between the ages of nine and 26 was approved by the CDC in 2006. It was expanded to boys and men in 2009 to protect against anal, oral and penile cancers.
The CDC recommends kids receive the HPV vaccination aged around 11 or 12, with two doses recommended before their 15th birthday. Three doses are recommended for those who start the series later.
The CDC estimates more than 42 million Americans have one strain of HPV, with about 13 million people are infected each year.
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