Cancer death rates continue to fall for both men and women and across major ethnic groups, according to the latest annual Status of Cancer report. However, the bad news is that while overall cancer deaths decline, certain cancers linked to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) are on the rise.
According to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2009, a yearly report issued by federal health agencies and the American Cancer Society, overall cancer incidence decreased in men and stabilized in women. However, researchers found that since 2000, certain cancers caused by HPV like anal cancer, cancer of the vulva and some types of throat cancer have been increasing.
The report, published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, revealed that from 2000 to 2009, overall cancer mortality dropped 1.8 percent annually among men, 1.4 percent a year among women and 1.8 percent every year in children under 14.
Researchers found that fewer people in the U.S. are dying from common cancers like lung, colon, breast and prostate cancers than in the past.
Researchers said in the report that cancer death rates have continued to fall since the 1990s because of less tobacco use and more screening, which can lead to early detection and treatment.
While HPV-related cancers are still uncommon, experts say more could be done to prevent them such as increasing vaccination rates among young people.
Researchers involved in the study cannot explain why the HPV vaccination rates remain low, but they note that there are many barriers to getting vaccinated. They say that unlike most vaccines, HPV vaccines aren't required for school enrollment; therefore, it puts less pressure on parents to ensure that their children are protected. HPV vaccination also requires three shots, which means that parents will have to take their child to the doctor several times.
"Vaccination rates are still quite low in terms of where we need to be to really impact HPV infections," Edgar Simard, a researcher involved in the study and senior epidemiologist at the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, told Bloomberg. "If we don't address these disparities now they will continue to manifest."
Government health officials recommend that boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 get HPV vaccinations. The government recommends that young women up to age of 26 get "catch-up" shots if they were never vaccinated. The same recommendation applies to boys and men ages 13 to 21.
However, the study finds that Americans are not following advice to protect themselves from HPV. Researchers found that in 2010, only 32 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. The report found that the lowest HPV vaccination rates were in southern states like Alabama and Mississippi and among people who don't have health insurance.
Researchers found that in 2009, HPV-related cancer accounted for 3.3 percent of all cancers among women and 2 percent in men.