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Low HPV vaccine rates correlate with high cervical cancer risk

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Cervical cancer is more common in states where the population receives fewer immunizations against human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study.

The utilization of HPV vaccines varies between states, and those states where inoculations were less common were shown to experience the greatest numbers of instances of cervical cancer, as well as deaths from the disease.

University of North Carolina researchers studied how rates of cervical cancer vary, compared to the percentage of people who receive vaccines in each state.

Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have some of the highest vaccination rates in the country - 69 percent in the Bay State - and a cervical cancer rate of six out of every 10,000 women. Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas have the lowest rates of HOV vaccinations - just 41 percent in the Land of Opportunity, where 10 in 10,000 females are diagnosed with the disease.

"These states could really use some interventions to increase the rates of HPV vaccination now, and hopefully there will be big dividends in the coming decades in terms of cancer mortality," Jennifer Moss, a doctoral student the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, and leader of the study, said.

Teenage girls and parents are more likely to get vaccinated against the virus if their physicians recommend inoculation. Researchers believe if health care providers recommended the vaccine more often, the change could impact the number of women diagnosed with this form of cancer.

More than 40 types of HPV exist, and they can be spread between genitals, as well as through oral contact. Many people with the disease do not experience symptoms, and may not know they are infected with the virus. They can also accidentally pass the organism on to other partners.

Cervical cancer can be detected early, through the use of pap smears, and is one of the easiest cancers to successfully treat if it is caught early enough.

Although there appears to be a correlation between the percentage of women who receive the vaccine and rates of cervical cancer, it is possible there could be other underlying causes.

Immunization against HPV consists of three inoculations, delivered over a period of six months. Those patients who underwent all three doses were the least likely to experience cervical cancer. Programs that deliver immunizations to low-income children and teens could also help lower the cancer rate, the investigators believe.

Study of the collaboration between HPV vaccines and cervical cancer was presented at a conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

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