The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center has joined the other 69 cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute to issue a statement urging increased vaccination for human papillomavirus.
Nearly 80 million Americans, or one in four people in the United States, are infected with HPV. Of those, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. The HPV vaccine has been shown to prevent infections, but vaccination rates in the U.S. remain low.
"Cervical and other HPV-related cancers are preventable," says international HPV expert Cosette Wheeler, PhD. Wheeler is a UNM Regents' Professor and a member of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We have the unprecedented opportunity to impact the cancer burden in our country and improve people's lives and health by working toward eradicating HPV-related cancers."
HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower than for other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. According 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer 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. They include a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and a lack of understanding among parents 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 to eliminate cancers caused by HPV. They will discuss ways to reduce the barriers to vaccination and share education, training and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.
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.