HPV Vaccine Underutilized Despite Significant Oral HPV Infection Protection

Research presented at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that although human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine reduces the rate of oral HPV infection, the vaccine is still underutilized among teens and young adults.


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“Rates of HPV-caused oral cancers continue to rise every year in the United States, particularly among men. And yet, no clinical trial has evaluated the potential use of the HPV vaccine for the prevention of oral HPV infections that could lead to cancer,” Maura L Gillison, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in a press release. “Given the absence of gold-standard, clinical trial data, we investigated whether HPV vaccine has had an impact on oral HPV infections among young adults in America.”

The researchers studied 2627 young adults aged 18 to 33 between 2011 and 2014. They identified study patients using the 2009-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of Americans. Study participants who received one or more doses of HPV vaccine were compared to those who did not receive any HPV vaccination.

Dr Gillison and colleagues found that in this nationally representative cohort, only 18.3% of young adults had received at least one dose of HPV vaccine during the study period. They recorded a 6.9% vaccination rate in men and a 29.2% vaccination rate in women.

Study results showed that prevalence of oral HPV was lower among vaccinated individuals, at 0.11% compared with 1.61% in unvaccinated individuals. The researchers noted that this corresponded to an 88% reduction in prevalence among vaccinated young adults.

“The HPV vaccine is one of the most important advances in cancer prevention in the last several decades,” Dr Gillison concluded. “Parents who choose to have their children vaccinated against HPV should realize that the vaccine may provide additional benefits, such as prevention of oral HPV infections linked to oral cancers.” —David Costill