Vaccine Cuts Teen Girls' HPV Rates by Two-Thirds
Still, too few girls and boys getting vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer, other malignancies, researchers say
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, Feb. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Ten years of vaccinating against human papillomavirus (HPV) has cut infections from this cancer-causing virus by 64 percent among teen girls, U.S. health officials report.
"We are continuing to see decreases in the HPV types that are targeted by the vaccine," said lead researcher Dr. Lauri Markowitz, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These declines should lead to reductions in diseases caused by HPV, which include cervical cancer, and head and neck cancer, Markowitz said. However, it will take decades to see these reductions, because cancer takes years to develop, she added.
"We have seen declines in genital warts [caused by HPV] already," she said. "The next thing we expect to see is a decline in pre-cancers, then later on declines in cancer."
Although these findings are encouraging, too few young people are being vaccinated, the researchers said. Only 42 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have received the recommended three doses of the vaccine, research has found.
"We could see greater declines in HPV-related disease if we had greater coverage," Markowitz said. "A very large percentage of cervical cancers could be prevented by the vaccine."
The report was published online Feb. 22 in the journal Pediatrics.
For the study, the CDC researchers used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to compare HPV infection rates among U.S. teens and young women both before and after an HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006.
The investigators found that among girls aged 14 to 19, the prevalence of the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine dropped from 11.5 percent in 2003-2006 to 4.3 percent in 2009-2012.
In addition, the prevalence of HPV dropped among women aged 20 to 24, from 18.5 percent to just over 12 percent, the study findings showed.
Markowitz said this study provides the first evidence of the vaccine's effect on the prevalence of HPV among women in their 20s.