The Grapevine

Men Largely Unaware That HPV Causes Various Cancers, Study Finds

You would assume by now that with the advent of the internet, most Americans would be aware of all the risks concerned with the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Considering that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, it comes as a surprise that 70 percent of adults surveyed recently did not know that HPV can cause penile, anal and oral cancers. 

Despite HPV affecting 14 million people every year, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health said that most  American adults across age groups are not aware of the many HPV-related cancers. 

What the Survey Said

The study, published in the latest issue of JAMA Pediatrics, looked at 2,564 men and 3,697 women who answered the Health Information National Trend (HINT) survey, which was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. It is a nationally representative survey that evaluates the level of understanding of health-related information among adults in order for researchers and planners to make appropriate decisions. 

Shockingly, youngsters that are known for their quickness to google symptoms and empower themselves with information did not have this knowledge. In the age group between 18 to 26, the survey revealed that two-thirds of men in contrast to one-third of women were not aware that HPV leads to cervical cancer.

Men are also less likely to know that the virus carries a risk of cancer than women, said Ashish Deshmukh, lead author and assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health. This is evidenced by his team's findings, which revealed that 80 percent of men and 75 percent of women did not have the basic knowledge that HPV also causes oral, anal and penile cancers. 

Not Enough Recommendations by Health Care Providers

The analysis mirrors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on the number of people who had received HPV vaccine recommendations from their health care provider. The researchers said that 19 percent of men and 31.5 percent of women had received such recommendations. Similarly, the prevalence of HPV vaccination was higher among adolescents whose parents were given recommendations by health care providers.

According to the CDC, 74.4 percent of such adolescents received the vaccination against 47.7 percent of those whose parents did not receive recommendations. This could explain the 2018 report by the CDC that stated 51 percent of people within the recommended age group had taken both doses of the vaccination.

Children aged nine to 14 are expected to take two doses of the HPV vaccine while children above 15 years of age are required to take three doses. "HPV vaccination campaigns have focused heavily on cervical cancer prevention in women. Our findings demonstrate a need to educate both sexes regarding HPV and HPV vaccination," Deshmukh said. 

HPV vaccine The HPV vaccine is effective for men up to 26 years of age, recommended a CDC committee after two days of extensive deliberations on June 26, 2019. Photo courtesy of Pan American Health Organization