November 13, 2014 — States with higher rates of cervical cancer tend to have lower vaccination rates against the human papillomavirus, which can lead to the disease, according to a study presented Tuesday at a conference on health disparities, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports.
According to CDC, 79 million U.S. residents have HPV, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, and there are 14 million new cases each year (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/3). The virus is linked to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, oral, penile and anal cancers, as well as genital warts.
CDC recommends that girls and boys begin the three-dose HPV vaccination series at age 11 or 12 and receive the three doses over an eight-month period. The vaccine can prevent the most common cancer-causing strains of the virus.
For the study, presented at an American Association for Cancer Research conference, researchers from the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University analyzed data from a cancer database maintained by the National Cancer Institute and CDC, as well as CDC's National Immunization Survey.
Specifically, they looked at how many girls in each state had begun the three-dose regimen (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/11). They then compared states' HPV vaccination rates with their quality of preventive health care, based on factors such as providers per capita, Pap test rates and childhood vaccination rates (Sifferlin, Time, 11/11).
The researchers presented findings showing a correlation between cervical cancer and HPV vaccination rates among girls in several states.
For example, the study found that about six in 100,000 women in Massachusetts develop cervical cancer annually -- giving it one of the lowest cervical cancer rates in the country -- and that 69% of teenage girls in the state received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine in 2012. Nationwide, the cervical cancer rate is 8.2 cases per 100,000 women, and 57% of girls receive at least one dose of the vaccine, according to "Science Now."
Meanwhile, Arkansas women had a cervical cancer rate of 10.2 cases per 100,000 women and a vaccination rate of 41%, while Florida had a cervical cancer rate of 9.4 cases per 100,000 women and a 39% vaccination rate.
However, the trend was not consistent across all states. While Utah and Vermont had cervical cancer rates of 5.7 and 5.9 per 100,000 women, respectively, they had vaccination rates of 44% and 66%, respectively ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
The study also found that vaccination rates among black and low-income teenagers were low in states with higher cervical cancer rates (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News& World Report, 11/11).
The researchers said they could not conclude whether there was a causal link between HPV vaccination rates and cervical cancer rates among women (Time, 11/11). In addition, the researchers did not find a statistical relation between HPV vaccination rates and HPV-related cancers among boys ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
However, the researchers said they did find a strong relationship between states' quality of preventive care and HPV vaccination rates among teenage girls (Time, 11/11).
According to the researchers, the study shows that public health officials should focus on increasing HPV vaccination rates in areas with high rates of cervical cancer. They said, "The current pattern of HPV vaccination, especially among girls, may not be adequate to reverse the current ... disparities in HPV-related cancer incidence and mortality" ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
Lead author Jennifer Moss said, "Increasing vaccination rates now, especially in areas with elevated risks of HPV-related cancer, will help prevent thousands of people from developing cancer" (HealthDay/U.S. News& World Report, 11/11).