Dr. Kassandra I. Alcaraz, director of health disparities research at the American Cancer Society, presented the results of a national survey that indicates a low rate of knowledge of the efficacy of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in preventing cancer is the major cause of the low rates of HPV vaccine use in populations the vaccine was designed to treat at the Dec. 8, 2013, session of the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved in Atlanta, Georgia.
The HPV vaccine has been available for the last seven years. Only one third of the women that could take advantage of the cervical cancer prevention the HPV vaccine provides have had the full compliment of three doses of the vaccine.
The researchers examined data from the National Cancer Institute's Health Information National Trends Survey from 2012 to 2013 and found that 70 percent of the women between nine and 27 years of age were not aware of the cancer preventative effects of the HPV vaccine. The rate for black women was 78 percent.
The majority of the participants in the survey had never discussed the HPV vaccine with a physician.
The HPV vaccine has proven effective in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine has also been shown to prevent cancers of the rectum, vulva, and mouth.
HPV is a cancer producing disease that knows no difference between race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. The researchers point out that higher rates of communication of the threat from HPV may lead to lower cancer rates and lower medical costs from unnecessary cancer treatment.