HPV in Teen Girls Down 64% Since Vaccinations Began in US

The percentage of teen girls who are infected with the types of human papilloma virus (HPV) covered by the HPV vaccine has dropped significantly since vaccination was introduced in the US in 2006, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV vaccines protect against high-risk types of the virus that cause most cervical cancers. The virus is also linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) to compare HPV infection rates among teens and young women before and after 2006. The CDC’s NHANES program began in the 1960s to collect health information about participants in order to determine the prevalence of major diseases and risk factors for diseases.

The study found that among girls ages 14 to 19 years, prevalence of the HPV types targeted by the vaccines dropped from 11.5% in 2003-2006 to 4.3% in 2009-2012. That’s a decrease of 64%. The researchers also found HPV rates in women ages 20 to 24 went from 18.5% in 2003-2006 to 12.1% in 2009-2012, a 34% drop. The vaccine is recommended for girls in their teens and is still fairly new, so vaccination rates are lower for women in their 20s. Boys were not included in the study, but will be included in future studies, according to the researchers.

The study was published February 22, 2016 in the journal Pediatrics.

More HPV vaccination encouraged

The drop in HPV prevalence comes despite the relatively low rates of vaccination across the US. According to the CDC, only 40% of girls and 21% of boys in the US have received all 3 doses of the vaccine. The CDC recommends that girls and boys receive 3 doses of HPV vaccine at ages 11 or 12 years. The vaccines work best if they are given before HPV infection occurs. The types of HPV that can cause cancer are sexually transmitted, and most girls and boys at this age are not yet sexually active. It’s also an age when they still will be seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations.

The American Cancer Society’s Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of cancer control intervention, HPV & women’s cancers, says it’s time to increase HPV vaccination in the US. “We have a cancer prevention vaccine. HPV vaccines have been available for 10 years. They are safe and they work. Yet in this country only about half of girls and boys who are vaccinated with the other vaccines recommended for preteens are getting vaccinated to protect them from cancer.”

The American Cancer Society supports a call-to-action from dozens of National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers across the US urging action to increase vaccination rates. The call-to action encourages parents and guardians, young women and men, and health care providers to protect young people from HPV infection and HPV-related cancers.

  • Parents and guardians should make sure their children complete the 3-dose HPV vaccine series before their 13th birthday. For children ages 13-17 who have not already been vaccinated, complete the series as soon as possible. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about HPV vaccines and their benefits.
  • Young women (up to age 26) and young men (up to age 21) who have not been vaccinated should complete the 3-dose HPV vaccine series to protect themselves against HPV.
  • Health care providers should join the fight against cancer by strongly recommending childhood HPV vaccination to parents and guardians, and helping to educate colleagues about the importance and benefits of HPV vaccination.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Prevalence of HPV After Introduction of the Vaccination Program in the United States. Published online February 22,2016 in Pediatrics. First author Lauri E. Markowitz, MD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

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