Yet Forty Percent of Parents Don’t Know the HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Cancer
New York, NY — A new study in the journal Cancer from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health departments indicates that since the introduction of HPV vaccines, abnormal changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer have fallen dramatically among young women in the U.S.
The study analyzed data from four U.S. states collected between 2008 and 2012. Among women aged 18 to 20, reported abnormal cervical lesions decreased dramatically over the four-year period. In California, the rate per 100,000 women fell from 94 in 2008 to five in 2012. In Connecticut, the rate per 100,000 fell from 450 to 57.
The study also reported decreases in cervical cancer screening rates in all four states. These declines reflect 2009 changes in medical guidelines, when the recommended age of first screening rose to 21 years. The researchers conclude that both the changing screening guidelines and the implementation of HPV vaccines likely impacted the declining rates of detected cervical lesions.
“We hope this study encourages parents to learn more about the HPV vaccine and why it is so important to vaccinate their children against HPV,” said Leslie Kantor, PhD, MPH, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Last year, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,663 pairs of parents with children aged 9-21. The poll was conducted by GfK Custom Research, LLC on behalf of Planned Parenthood and CLAFH, and the results were released in March 2015.
The survey found that not enough parents have accurate information about HPV or the HPV vaccine: Three in 10 (29 percent) parents didn’t know that HPV can cause cervical cancer, or that the HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer (31 percent). (Another 10 percent and 9 percent of parents got the questions wrong, respectively.)
“Parents should consider the HPV vaccine an important tool in their efforts to keep their children healthy,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, RN, co-director of CLAFH. “Parents need more targeted education efforts on the benefits of the HPV vaccine for their adolescent children. We also need to encourage proactive communication between parents, adolescents, and health care providers about the benefits of HPV vaccination and sexual and reproductive health checkups.”
“Parents need to understand that the HPV vaccine can prevent cancer,” added Dr. Kantor. “This survey shows that 40 percent of parents are not aware that HPV can cause cancer or that the HPV vaccine can prevent cancer. Over half did not know that HPV can cause cancer in boys and men, as well as girls and women. As parents, we feel a responsibility to keep our children safe and healthy. The HPV vaccine is currently one of only two vaccines available capable of preventing certain types of cancer, so it’s important that parents make the decision to vaccinate.”
PPFA/CLAFH Survey Findings
The survey data shows that parents lack a basic understanding of HPV, of how HPV is transmitted, and that HPV can cause cancer in both men and women:
- Three in ten (29.3 percent) parents reported not knowing if HPV can cause cervical cancer, or if the HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer (30.9 percent). (Another 10.2 percent and 9.3 percent of parents got the questions wrong, respectively.)
- Nearly half (48.2 percent) of parents reported not knowing if HPV can cause cancer in boys and men. (Another 11.9 percent of parents got the question wrong, saying it couldn’t.)
- About a third (33.5 percent) of parents reported not knowing if the vaccine is recommended for boys as well as girls, while almost a quarter (21.7 percent) mistakenly believe the vaccine is only recommended for girls.
- Nearly a third (28.9 percent) of parents reported not knowing if you can get HPV from having sex.
The data also revealed that the lack of information regarding HPV and the vaccine is contributing to parents’ decisions about whether to vaccinate their children against HPV:
- Three in ten (30.7 percent) of the children of the parents surveyed had gotten the vaccine. However, a similar proportion (29.8 percent), had not yet decided whether or not their child would get the vaccine.
- When asked what their reasons were for not vaccinating their child, nearly a third (32.1 percent) said they did not know enough about the vaccine.
- Of those who had not vaccinated their child, 70.7 percent listed safety concerns as their reason for not vaccinating and 34.2 percent said their child was not yet sexually active.
- Of the children who did get the vaccine, many were not getting it early enough, with only 14.6 percent receiving the vaccine while aged 12 or under, when it is most effective.
Background on the HPV vaccine and cervical health:
- In 2015, there will be about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in the United States, which will result in about 4,100 deaths.
- Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers when protective measures such as getting the HPV vaccine, getting HPV and/or Pap tests, and using condoms are taken.
- The HPV vaccine is one of only two vaccines that work to prevent cancer and is supported by leading medical organizations as safe and effective. The FDA has approved this vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included it in its list of recommended vaccines for girls and boys aged 11-12.
- Leading medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as Planned Parenthood, support young men and women having access to the HPV vaccine.
- Medical guidance recommends that both girls and boys get the vaccination when they are 11 to 12 years old because the vaccine works best when people receive it before they start having sex. However, even those who have had sex can benefit from the vaccine; it is generally available for anyone aged 9-26.
- Nine years after the introduction of the HPV vaccine, research has shown that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing HPV-related cancers and that we’ve made significant progress in curbing the spread of HPV.
- Research shows that HPV among teen girls has declined by 56 percent.
- However, there are 14 million new cases of HPV in the U.S. each year and the CDC reports that only 38 percent of U.S. girls ages 13 to 17 have received all three recommended doses of the vaccine.
You can rely on Planned Parenthood for accurate, nonjudgmental, and high-quality information and care, including HPV vaccines, Pap tests and other cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for STIs. In 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 400,000 Pap tests and 35,000 HPV vaccinations.
The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH.org) is a research center at New York University Silver School of Social Work that investigates the unique role of parents in shaping the development and well-being of Latino and other ethnic minority adolescents. CLAFH’s research addresses key issues that impact ethnic minority families with specific attention to improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes.
Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
July 02, 2015