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September 16, 2019

Americans lack awareness about HPV, study finds

The virus causes more than cervical cancer – but many people don't know that

Illness HPV
HPV Illustration 09162019 Source/Image licensed by Ingram Image

This 3D illustration shows blood cells and the human papilloma virus in the vein.

Many U.S. adults lack awareness of the dangers posed by human papillomavirus, the most commonly sexually-transmitted infection, according to a new study.

More than 70 percent of all adults are unaware that human papillomavirus – known simply as HPV – can cause oral, anal and penile cancers, the study found.

More people know that HPV can cause cervical cancer. But among adults between ages 18 and 26, only two-thirds of women and one-third of men know this.

The HPV vaccine protects against cancers caused by the virus, which can also cause genital warts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children – boys and girls – receive a two-dose immunization between ages 9 and 14. Anyone who receives the first dose after their 15th birthday should receive three doses.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Their findings were published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study included 3,697 women and 2,564 men who participated in the Health Information National Trend Survey.

The lack of knowledge may be contributing to low vaccination rates in the United States, lead researcher Ashish A. Deshmukh said.

Only 51 percent of people in the recommended age groups have been vaccinated, according to a CDC report last year.

"HPV vaccination campaigns have focused heavily on cervical cancer prevention in women," Deshmukh said in a statement. "Our findings demonstrate a need to educate both sexes regarding HPV and HPV vaccination."

Increased screening have prompted a decline in cervical cancer rates during the last two decades, Deshmukh said. By contrast, oropharyngeal cancer rates in men has increased by 200 percent. And anal cancer rates have risen 150 percent among women.

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