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What does the public really know about HPV?

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States, and certain "high risk" types have been shown to cause cervical cancer. Despite recent advances in the detection and prevention of HPV, the link between the virus and cervical cancer is not well known to the public. In June 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first vaccine to prevent infection of two high risk types of HPV, and two types that cause genital warts. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended it for females 9 to 26 years of age.

Two studies presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting in Boston assess the public's understanding of HPV and whether discussion of the vaccine by the media and public has influenced the decision to vaccinate among women at risk.

What Do U.S. Women Know About Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Cancer?

Many women with HPV show no symptoms of the virus, and infections often clear without need for treatment. Because of this, many women do not have the opportunity to speak with their physicians about HPV and therefore may not learn that some HPV infections are persistent and can develop into cervical cancer.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) created the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to monitor health communications about cancer. In 2005, one high-priority research aim was to assess, for the first time, the awareness and knowledge of HPV in a nationally representative sample of women.

To identify factors associated with U.S. women's awareness of HPV and its link to cervical cancer, researchers from NCI analyzed cross-sectional data collected from more than 3,000

women ages 18 to 75 who responded to HINTS. Researchers found that:

  • Only 40 percent had ever heard about HPV;
  • Among them, less than ha
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Source:American Association for Cancer Research


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