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Low-Income, Minority Parents More Open to HPV Vaccine for Girls, Study Says

FRIDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Low-income, minority parents have more realistic views about their teens' sexual activity and are more open to vaccinating their daughters against the cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), a small new study contends.

Conversely, white, middle-class parents are more likely to put off vaccination for their daughters, according to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine.

"Approximately 33,000 Americans will get an HPV-related cancer each year, many of which can be prevented by vaccination," study lead author Dr. Rebecca Perkins, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said in a university news release. "Solid communication between parents and providers is the key to improving HPV vaccination rates, which is what this study seeks to measure."

For the study, the researchers questioned 34 pediatric and family medicine physicians, as well as nurse practitioners, at four community health centers that serve low-income, minority residents in Boston. The providers were asked their views on how parents felt about vaccinating their daughters against HPV. The providers also were asked to engage in a role-play to demonstrate how they typically introduce or explain the HPV vaccine to parents.

The study found that immigrants, particularly from Latin America, have more positive views on the HPV vaccine. The researchers said this might be because these people had more experience with vaccine-preventable diseases and cervical cancer in their home countries.

Although teens' ethnic backgrounds or income did not affect their sexual behavior, the researchers said immigrant parents were more realistic about their daughters' sexual activity than white, middle-class parents.

Rates of cervical cancer and deaths from the disease are significantly higher among low-income and minority women due to higher HPV infection rates and limited access to screening and treatment. The HPV vaccine can reduce this disparity if girls are vaccinated before they become sexually active, the study authors said.

The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Funding for the study was provided by an American Cancer Society Mentored Research Scholar grant.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on HPV vaccines.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, May 14, 2013

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