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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Temple: Study Finds Lack of Awareness of HPV Vaccine’s Ability to Prevent Non-cervical Cancers

When it hit the market in 2006, the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) was marketed to parents of girls as a way to prevent cervical cancer. But for years the marketing ignored a population of people who could benefit from it: boys and men, particularly gay men, who are at risk of other preventable types of cancer that HPV can lead to.

Dr. Christopher Wheldon, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences at Temple University College of Public Health, has examined the implications of this medical treatment being aimed at one group of people over another. His work exploring awareness of the HPV vaccine’s ability to prevent non-cervical cancers among men and older adults has been published in several recent papers. Among his findings: most adults who were aware of HPV didn’t know it could cause other cancers.

“We have a vaccine that can protect against these other cancers, but most people still think it’s just a cervical cancer vaccine,” says Dr. Wheldon, whose research focuses on cancer education and care for underserved and vulnerable populations.

HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer and oral cancer in both sexes. From 2008 to 2012, an average of more than 30,000 cancers per year attributable to HPV were diagnosed in the U.S., around 38 percent in males, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gardasil for males in 2009, and in 2011 it was indicated for use in the prevention of anal cancer.  But for years the girl-centered marketing carried on, skirting around an uncomfortable yet important fact: HPV spreads as the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Read more at The College of Public Health.

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