By Kim Polacek
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is common. It is estimated as many as 80 million people have an active HPV infection at any given time. While some types of HPV are more harmful than others, there is a way to protect yourself from the types most likely to cause cancers – HPV vaccination.
The HPV vaccine has been available since 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that males and females ages 11 to 26 receive the HPV vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has even expanded the vaccine’s use in adults up to age 45. But the number of adolescents and young adults who have received the series of shots falls far below the nation’s goal of 80 percent. And that number is even lower among those at high risk of infection.
A new study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting found that those who are at high risk of becoming infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were less likely than the general population to be vaccinated against HPV.
“A healthy person has the ability to clear most types of human papillomavirus,” said Dr. Anna Giuliano, founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center. “But those infected with HIV have a compromised immune system that may not be able to fight off HPV, making them more prone to developing some types of cancer, including cervical, anal and throat cancer.”
Researchers involved in the study used data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to access HPV vaccination rates in those who reported engaging in one or more high-risk behaviors in the year prior to the survey. High-risk behavior included use of injection drugs and certain sexual activity. Among the 416 individuals that fit into that population, some key findings emerged:
- 7 percent of gay/bisexual males aged 18-33 had initiated the vaccination series, but only 6.2 percent completed it
- 25 percent of high-risk heterosexual females aged 18-36 completed the vaccination series
- 11 percent of high-risk heterosexual males aged 18-29 initiated the vaccination series
- None of the transgender men and women, as well as gender nonconforming individuals, started the HPV vaccination series
“These data show there is room for much-needed education and efforts to increase vaccination among not just those at high risk for HIV infection, but also all sexually active adolescents and adults,” said Giuliano.
To learn more about HPV and its related cancers, visit Moffitt.org/HPV.