Recognizing a critical need to improve national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has again united with each of the 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in issuing a joint statement in support of recently revised recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“HPV vaccine is cancer prevention,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis. “The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and provides long-lasting protection. It breaks my heart when I hear of parents or adolescents choosing to delay or opt out of receiving HPV vaccine — this is a tragedy putting them at needless risk for future cancers and cancer deaths.”
Rates of HPV-associated cancers have continued to rise, with approximately 39,000 new HPV-associated cancers now diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the CDC. Although HPV vaccines can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers, vaccination rates remain low across the U.S., with just 41.9 percent of girls and 28.1 percent of boys completing the recommend vaccine series.
The new CDC guidelines recommend that children aged 11 to 12 should receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Adolescents and young adults older than 15 should continue to complete the three-dose series.
“Benjamin Franklin said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.’ This is so applicable to HPV vaccinations, which can prevent almost all kinds of cervical, anal and many other types of cancer,” said Moon Chen, Jr., associate director for cancer control at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It is critical that parents recognize the importance of this relatively simple and highly effective approach to cancer prevention.”
A lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer are among the many barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, research shows. To overcome these barriers, NCI-designated cancer centers have organized a continuing series of national summits to share new research, discuss best practices and identify collective action toward improving vaccination rates.
The original joint statement, published in January 2016, was the major recommendation from a summit hosted at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in November 2015, which brought together experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers.
“We have been inspired by the White House Cancer Moonshot to work together in eliminating cancer,” said Electra Paskett, associate director for population sciences at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) Cancer Control Research Program. “Improving HPV vaccination is an example of an evidence-based prevention strategy we can implement today to save thousands of lives in the future.”
The updated statement is the result of discussions from the most recent summit, hosted this summer by OSUCCC – James. Nearly 150 experts from across the country gathered in Columbus to present research updates and plan future collaborative actions across NCI-designated cancer centers.