(PHILADELPHIA, January 27, 2016) — In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Fox Chase Cancer Center has joined with 69 of the nation’s top cancer centers in issuing a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nations’ physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.
“As cancer treatment providers, we are in a unique situation to work to prevent HPV-related cancers in our country,” says Richard I. Fisher, MD, President and CEO, Fox Chase Cancer Center. “The vaccination is our best defense in stopping HPV infection in our youth and preventing HPV-related cancers from developing in the first place.”
National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers joined in this effort in the spirit of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call for a national “moonshot” to cure cancer, a collaborative effort led by Vice President Joe Biden.
“This initiative is directly aligned with the desire of the President, Vice President and all Americans to work constructively together to eradicate cancer,” says Ernest Hawk, MD, vice president and division head, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “This is one example of actions that can be taken today to make a very big difference in the future cancer burden.”
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.
“I urge parents to vaccinate your boys and girls, age 11-13, with the HPV vaccine,” states Fisher. There are also opportunities to vaccinate young men (up to age 21) and young women (up to age 26). There are plenty of cancers we cannot prevent – but we have the tools to prevent HPV-related cancers.”
Vaccination rates remain low across the U.S. compared to countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, 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.
To discuss strategies for overcoming these barriers, experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers met in a summit at MD Anderson Cancer Center last November. During this summit, cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans, or detailed regional assessments, which sought to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.
The published call to action was a major recommendation resulting from discussions at that summit, with the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.
View the NCI statement [PDF]