Human papillomavirus-associated cancers occur more frequently among Hispanics, blacks and American Indian and Alaska Natives than among whites.
A new study found that HPV vaccination is expected to reduce the cancer burden across all racial/ethnic groups. Unfortunately, some disparities in cancer burden may persist and widen in the years to come if their causes aren’t addressed.
About 80 million people in the U.S. are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million more will become infected each year.
HPV infections that don’t go away can lead to various forms of cancer. HPV vaccines have been licensed and recommended for boys and girls since 2006. HPV vaccines are expected to lead to declines in six HPV-associated cancers, including cervical, anal and oropharyngeal cancer.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that less than half of girls and even fewer boys have received all three recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series. Additionally, the number of young people who complete the series also differs by racial and ethnic group. Conversely, the vaccination rate for the adolescent Tdap vaccine is about 85% or higher for all racial and ethnic groups. Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
The study used both absolute and relative measures to examine the impact of HPV vaccination on racial/ethnic disparities. They found that although the absolute burden of cancer and disparities are expected to decreased with improved HPV vaccination coverage, relative disparities may persist and in some cases increase.
The estimated decrease in cancer burden was greater among some racial/ethnic groups, which led to an increase in the relative disparity among men. This is partly due to the fact that HPV causes a smaller proportion of oropharyngeal cancers in black males than in white males therefore vaccination would not have as must of an impact of the overall cancer burden for that group.
Researchers believe that efforts to improve HPV vaccination uptake in the U.S. must also be accompanied by efforts to minimize differences in access to screening for cervical cancer and access to timely diagnoses and treatment for all HPV-associated cancers.