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Arnold School of Public Health


South Carolina healthcare leaders join nation’s cancer centers in endorsement of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention

January 29, 2016

The below story is republished here from the Medical University of South Carolina.

In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center has joined with the nation’s other 68 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in issuing astatement urging for increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. In South Carolina, more than 25 additional healthcare providers and advocacy groups praised the statement and offered support as well, highlighting the significant issues related to HPV infections in South Carolina. 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.

“HPV-related cancers pose a serious problem to our state and nation, and thanks to the biggest cancer prevention breakthrough in decades, we have a powerful tool to prevent this. As a cancer center, we feel it is critical to raise awareness of this issue and move the needle on increasing vaccinations against HPV,” said Anthony J. Alberg, Ph.D., M.P.H., interim director for the Hollings Cancer Center.

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, M.D., 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.

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, and South Carolina lags behind the nation overall. 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.

Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor and gynecologic oncologist at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, participated in the summit and drafting of the national statement. “Cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases continue to affect many in our state, and we know we can prevent this. It is imperative that we raise awareness of this issue and move forward discussions on what we can do to prevent HPV infections and related cancers,” she said.

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.

Healthcare providers and advocates in South Carolina quickly hailed the statement as an important step in raising awareness.

South Carolina individuals and agencies on record as supporting the statement can be found here.

Facts about cervical cancer and other HPV-associated cancers, along with facts about adolescent vaccination in South Carolina, can be found here.