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College Kids Don’t Understand the HPV Threat

Last Updated: June 05, 2015.

Survey found more than half didn't get vaccinated, and many were unaware of their risk for infection.

FRIDAY, June 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many American college students don't get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), and many don't fully understand the threat posed by the virus or their risk for infection, new findings suggest.

In women, some types of HPV -- the most common sexually transmitted disease -- can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus. In men, some types of HPV can lead to cancers of the anus and penis, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Researchers surveyed 192 female undergraduate students at Oakland University in Michigan. The results showed that most of the respondents knew about the HPV vaccine, but 54 percent were not vaccinated.

The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, in New Orleans. The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"A survey of their knowledge on the HPV vaccination and infection indicates a lack of understanding about the consequences, therapy and [prevention] for an HPV infection," study author Aishwarya Navalpakam, of Oakland University's School of Medicine, said in a society news release.

Students still believed they had a low risk of being infected with HPV even after they were given information about the infection and vaccination, the researchers said.

The investigators plan further analysis of the survey data in order to learn more about the students' knowledge and beliefs about HPV infection and vaccination.

"Ultimately, we hope to address this low vaccination rate by raising awareness, providing educational interventions, and helping decrease the incidence of cervical cancer," Navalpakam said.

There are about 6 million new cases of HPV each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 99 percent of all cervical cancer cases are caused by an HPV infection.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends HPV vaccination for girls aged 11 to 12, but the three-dose vaccination can be given up to age 26. Three HPV vaccines are now available in the United States: Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about HPV vaccines.

SOURCE: American Society for Microbiology, news release, May 31, 2015

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