LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 8, 2018) – 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.
The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center 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.
“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, Ph.D., 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 vaccination rates in Kentucky are well below the national average,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. “We fully support immunization for HPV and hope to encourage more parents to have their children vaccinated, which will significantly lower their risk of developing these largely preventable cancers.”
“It is important for Markey to be involved in HPV vaccination initiatives at both the state and local level given the burden of HPV-related cancers in our state,” said Robin Vanderpool, director of community outreach and engagement at the UK Markey Cancer Center and associate professor in the UK College of Public Health. “The UK Markey Cancer Center collaborates with the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, the American Cancer Society, and community public health and clinical partners to raise awareness of HPV vaccination among our communities and educate and train health care providers on the importance of a strong and consistent immunization recommendation.”
Vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. According 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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 parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer in men and women. HPV causes multiple cancers including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
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, as well as share education, training and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.
Vanderpool is attending the meeting in Salt Lake City and will present on HPV vaccination challenges and opportunities in rural communities and share results from a television and news programming media scan conducted in collaboration with the UK College of Communication and Information.
“Attendance at these meetings is vital way for Markey to learn from other cancer centers and researchers about novel and innovative strategies to impact HPV vaccination rates in our communities,” Vanderpool said.
“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.