Health & Medicine

HPV vaccines save lives but could save more, UCD Cancer Center says. It's spreading the word

Human papillomaviruses account for nearly 40,000 new cases of cancer every year. Most HPV-related cancers are preventable with a vaccine, and yet the United States has relatively low vaccination rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center announced Thursday it is partnering with 69 National Cancer Institute centers to urge HPV vaccination and screenings, the center said in a press release.

“We know that vaccination against HPV saves lives by preventing many kinds of cancers, including cervical cancer,” said Primo Lara Jr., a medical oncologist and director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Health care providers are essential in recommending immunization, and parents can help us, too, by asking their doctors about vaccination.”

HPV is spread during sex and is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according the National Cancer Institute.

About half of all infections are with a type of the virus that has a high risk of cancer, the Institute said.

HPV can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer and oropharyngeal cancers, which develop in the throat.

The CDC recommends all children complete the series of vaccines between the ages 9 and 13. The vaccine is also recommended for men up to age 21 and women up to age 26.

In the United States, 49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys have completed the HPV vaccine series, according the CDC. The Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of reaching 80 percent vaccination rate by 2020.

In recent years, UC Davis Health has launched programs to increase vaccination rates, it said in the release, including a survey of parents, health care professionals and county health departments in 13 counties to gauge attitudes toward the vaccinations.

The survey results showed “anti-vaccine sentiment, vaccine ability and clinic capacity problems” were barriers to vaccination.

They also reviewed state legislative efforts around HPV vaccination and found "large gaps" in HPV reporting.

A new project is working with Health and Life Organization, which runs a number of health clinics in the Sacramento region. It aims to increase cancer screening and vaccination for Asian Americans, who are disproportionately affected by cervical cancer.

“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 Anna R. Giuliano, HPV expert and director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center, in a statement.

Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1176, @SullivanMollyM

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