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Focus on STD, not cancer prevention, to promote HPV vaccine use
Date:5/2/2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio The HPV vaccine can prevent both cervical cancer and a nasty sexually transmitted disease in women. But emphasizing the STD prevention will persuade more young women to get the vaccine, a new study suggests.

These results go against the conventional wisdom that scaring women about the possibility of cancer is the best way to get them vaccinated.

The failure of that cancer-threat message may be one reason that fewer than 20 percent of adolescent girls in the United States have received the HPV vaccine, said Janice Krieger, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

"Young women don't respond strongly to the threat of cervical cancer," Krieger said.

"They seem to be more worried about getting an STD. That's the way we should try to encourage them to get the HPV vaccine."

The vaccine most commonly sold under the brand name Gardasil prevents the types of HPV, or human papillomavirus, that cause most cases of cervical cancer and most cases of genital warts, a sexually transmitted disease.

Krieger conducted the study with Melanie Sarge of Texas Tech University. It appears in a recent issue of the journal Health Communication.

Many early studies of how to sell the benefits of the HPV vaccine found that the message that it prevents cancer was effective. But these studies often involved women of all ages, from adolescence to old age. The problem, though, is that the vaccine is targeted to women under the age of 26.

"Cancer is something people start to worry about later in life, not when they're in high school and college. We decided to do a clean study that compared what message worked best with college-aged women versus what worked with their mothers," Krieger said.

Participants in the study included 188 female college students (average age of 22) and 115 of their mothers (average age of 50).

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Contact: Janice Krieger
Raup-krieger.1@osu.edu
614-342-0330
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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