UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has partnered with 69 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers to urge increased HPV vaccination and screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nations’ physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to eliminate several different types of cancer in men and women.
“Here in Pittsburgh, we do have a 70 percent adoption rate for this vaccine, while nationally it’s only about 43 percent,” said Robert Edwards, MD, Milton McCall Professor and Chairman, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Director of Women’s Health for UPMC. “We have had a great amount of awareness in this region, but if we are to fully eliminate HPV-related cancers in our lifetime, we must do better.”
Vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. According to 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 50 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys completed the recommended vaccine series. Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents who do not understand that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
The NCI-designated cancer centers unanimously share the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for the elimination of HPV-related cancers. They are asking health care providers to recommend the HPV vaccine and parents to join in this effort by asking their doctors about vaccination.
HPV experts from the nation’s top cancer centers, along with partners from the NCI, CDC and the American Cancer Society, are meeting June 7 to 8 in Salt Lake City to discuss a path forward to eliminating cancers caused by HPV, including ways to reduce barriers to vaccination, as well as share education, training and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.