Higher rates of cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) occur in African-Americans compared to whites, according to a nationally renowned physician Dr. Alison Moriarty Daley.
While some Black parents have concerns about vaccines for HPV including that their children are too young to even consider sex, health experts say that the vaccine – particularly Gardasil 9 – does more than help prevent the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
“It’s a safe and effective form of cancer prevention,” said Daley of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, an organization headquartered in New York.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, Daley and other health experts said.
Of the estimated 79 million Americans, currently infected with HPV, half of those newly infected with HPV are between 15-24 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys between 11 and 26 years old.
“Acquisition of the HPV virus happens pretty quickly after the initiation of sexual activity. So, that’s why it’s important to vaccinate early to prevent the virus before anyone’s exposed to it,” she said.
The link between HPV and cervical cancer is irrefutable, Daley noted.
“We know that HPV is the cause of cervical cancer,” she said. “And even just last year, there were 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,100 deaths attributed to cervical cancer.”
Reportedly, HPV is also linked to certain cancers of the mouth, throat and genitals in both men and women.
The original recommendation of three doses of the HPV vaccine was amended in October to just two doses for children younger than age 15. Older teens and young adults still require three doses.
The rate of those contracting HPV-associated cancers varies by race and ethnicity, African-Americans are hit hardest — men and women — according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
● Black and Latino women had higher rates of HPV-associated cervical cancer than white and non-Latino women. Black women had higher rates of HPV-associated vaginal cancer than white women while African-American and Latino women had lower rates of HPV-associated vulvar cancer than white and non-Hispanic women, according to the CDC.
● Rates of anal and rectal HPV-associated cancers were also higher in Black men when compared with white men, but lower in b\Black women when compared with white women.
● In all races and ethnicities, men had higher rates of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer than women while Black and Latino men and women had lower rates of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers than white and non-Latino men and women.
In order to boost HPV vaccination, doctors should be more assertive when bringing up the topic with parents, Noel Brewer, a health and behavior scientist at the University of North Carolina, told NPR this year.
Brewer knew from earlier research that doctors contribute to that low vaccination rate because “doctors should be more assertive when bringing up the topic with parents,” especially when children are 11 or 12 when its recommended the vaccine be given.
Also, because the vaccine is more effective at ages 11 and 12, the CDC now recommends only two doses instead of three. However, if children don’t get vaccinated until age 15, they’ll still need the full three doses.
“The HPV vaccine is an amazing tool to protect our younger generation against many types of cancer,” said Dr. Margaret Stager, a pediatrician with Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Strains of HPV are responsible for the vast majority of HPV-related cancers, she said. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, so it’s an important vaccine for both girls and boys, Stager said. Preventing cancer should be the critical take-home message for parents, she added.
“HPV prevalence has already decreased as much as 65 percent among vaccinated youth, dramatically lowering the odds they will face a life-threatening form of cancer in adulthood,” Stager said.