CDC: 92% of Cancers Caused by HPV are Vaccine Preventable

Of the estimated 34,800 cancers likely caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) each year, 92 percent can be prevented by an HPV vaccine, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Public health officials say the new data confirms the need for a national campaign to increase HPV vaccination rate to 80 percent nationwide. The CDC estimates about 14 million people become newly infected with HPV each year, mostly teens and young adults. The most recent statistics show that 49.5 of girls and 37.5 percent of boys, aged 13-17, are up-to-date on all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine, the U.S. agency has reported.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common virus, with nearly 80 million people — about one in four — currently infected in the United States. Most significantly, it is a cancer-causing virus.

Overall, HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

“We’re seeing now that head and neck cancers are related to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and it’s becoming more and more apparent that these cases are increasing in incidence,” said Geoffrey Young, M.D., chief of head and neck surgery at Miami Cancer Institute. “There is good evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine will help prevent future cancers.”

During 2012-2016, an average of 43,999 HPV-associated cancers were reported each year, according to the CDC’s new report released last week.

The CDC recommended that 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, will continue to need three doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancer-causing HPV infection. U.S. regulators last year expanded the use of the HPV vaccine to include men and women between the ages of 27 and 45. This approval should protect more people from several types of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, known as HPV, experts say.

“A future without HPV cancers is within reach, but urgent action is needed to improve vaccine coverage rates,” stated Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Increasing HPV vaccination coverage to 80 percent has been and will continue to be a priority initiative for HHS, and we will continue to work with our governmental and private sector partners to make this a reality.”

As part of its new report, CDC researchers analyzed 2012-2016 U.S. data to determine the incidence of HPV-associated cancers, and to estimate the annual number of cancers attributable to the HPV types in the currently available HPV vaccine.

The CDC report’s key findings include:

  • During 2012-2016, an estimated average of 34,800 HPV-attributable cancers were diagnosed each year.
  • The most common cancers were cervical (9,700) and oropharyngeal cancer (12,600).
  • The number of cancers attributable to HPV types targeted by the vaccine ranged by state from 40 in Wyoming to 3,270 in California.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer was the most common cancer attributable to the vaccine types in all states, except in Texas where cervical cancer was most common.

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