MDs’ Recommendations on HPV Vaccine Carry Weight with College Students

Roswell Park/SUNY Cortland research affirms importance of educating young people about cancer-preventing vaccines
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BUFFALO, N.Y. — College students say they would follow their doctor’s recommendations concerning the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, a currently underutilized opportunity for cancer prevention. That point is among the key findings of a survey conducted by experts from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the State University of New York at Cortland (SUNY Cortland), results of which have been published online ahead of print in the Journal of American College Health.

“Historically, vaccines have dramatically reduced the toll for diseases such as polio and measles. The HPV vaccine is effective and protects against several common anogenital cancers, including cervical cancer as well as vaginal, vulvar, penile and anal cancers that are associated with oncogenic HPV types. This unique study affirms the importance of a clinician’s recommendation to get vaccinated,” says Martin Mahoney, MD, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the departments of Medicine and Health Behavior at Roswell Park and Professor, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo.

More than 800 students from two northeastern U.S. colleges participated in an anonymous Internet-based survey that asked questions about health behaviors, knowledge of HPV and use of the HPV vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil, among others. Sixty percent of males and 59% of females said they would be guided by a clinician’s recommendations on HPV vaccination.

About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 be vaccinated, with catchup vaccination of all unvaccinated persons up to age 26. There is no cure for HPV, just as there is no cure for the common cold. In most people, an HPV infection will clear up on its own, but can still be passed on to others. Each year, approximately 21,000 HPV-related cancers could be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine.

“These findings support the need to provide more comprehensive health education to adolescents and young adult males about the benefits of HPV vaccination,” adds co-author of the study, Sarah Beshers, PhD, Health Department at SUNY Cortland. “Given the effectiveness of these preventive HPV vaccines, efforts should focus on vaccinating pre-teens and adolescents.”

The study title is: “Sex Differences Among College Students in Awareness of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine and Vaccine Options.” Dr. Mahoney reports that he has previously served on speakers’ bureaus for both Merck and GlaxoSmithKline related to the topic of HPV vaccination. The other authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

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The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, Roswell Park is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email AskRoswell@Roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: 

Deborah Pettibone, Public Information Specialist
716-845-4919; deborah.pettibone@roswellpark.org