Cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the United States increased between 2000 and 2009, at the same time as the nation’s overall cancer death rates continued to decline. More Americans are surviving the most common cancers – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate – according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.
But incidences of HPV-associated oropharyngeal (head and neck), anal and vulvar cancers are on the rise. Rates of cervical cancer declined among all women except American Indian/Alaska Natives. In general, cervical cancer rates were higher among women living in low socio-economic areas.
The nation is making progress fighting cancer on some fronts but more must be done, said Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though vaccinating against HPV can prevent certain cancers, vaccination levels remained low among adolescent girls between 2008 and 2010, according to the report.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. More than 40 types of HPV can infect the genital areas, mouth and throat of males and females. Nine in 10 HPV infections clear up by themselves within two years. Some, though, persist and cause serious health problems such as cancer.
HPV infections cause virtually all cervical cancers, 90 percent of anal cancers, more than 60 percent of certain oropharyngeal cancers (including the base of the tongue, tonsils and throat) and 40 percent of vagina, vulvar and penile cancers.
In 2010, less than half of girls aged 13-17 received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Only 32 percent received all three recommended doses. Girls living in the South, those living below the poverty level and Hispanics were the least likely to complete the vaccination series. HPV vaccines have been available since 2006 and are recommended for boys and girls aged 11-26.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Arizona has joined the American Sexual Health Association and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition in calling for expanded access to vaccines and regular Pap tests.
Nationally, about 87 percent of women received a Pap test during the previous three years, according to a 2010 survey highlighted in the report. Pap testing varied by state: 80 percent of women in Arkansas, Oregon, and Utah had the test compared with 93 percent in Massachusetts, where cervical cancer rates are low.
In 2009, almost 34,800 men and women aged 15 or older were diagnosed with HPV-associated cancers. For throat and anal cancers, incidence rates were generally higher among those aged 55-64 than younger or older Americans.
Researchers from the CDC, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries co-authored the report, which has been produced since 1998.The entire report is available in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.