Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has joined all 69 of the nation's top cancer centers in issuing a statement urging increased human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for the prevention of cancer. The statement is in response to low national vaccination rates for HPV. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nation's physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.
"Human papillomavirus has caused many cancers afflicting patients cared for at Winship Cancer Institute, especially cancers in the tongue and throat region," says Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, Winship's executive director. "We believe a fully mobilized HPV vaccination program would substantially lessen the future burden of cancer on the citizens of Georgia."
National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers joined in this effort in the spirit of President Obama's State of the Union call for a national initiative to cure cancer, a collaborative effort led by Vice President Biden.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV infections are responsible for approximately 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the U.S. Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
"The HPV vaccine has been shown to be a safe and effective way to prevent a large number of cancers. Our research through the Winship Cancer Institute is focused on helping parents understand the need for HPV vaccination, alongside other adolescent vaccinations," says Robert Bednarczyk, PhD, assistant professor at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
Vaccination rates remain low across the U.S., with under 40 percent of girls and just over 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three doses. Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.
The published call to action was a major recommendation resulting from discussions at a 2015 summit of cancer experts. The resulting goal hopes to send a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.