Human papilomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease among adolescent girls in the United States, with 29.5 percent of sexually active women ages 14 to 19 infected at any given time. The HPV vaccination is one of the most prominent ways to prevent cervical cancer. Now a new study completed at a medical center in Baltimore shows that most urban women and girls who received a HPV vaccination did not carry out the full 3-dose regimen recommended by doctors.
The research results were presented at the ninth annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.
During 2006 to 2010, 9658 girls and women were seen at the University of Maryland Medical Center and were eligible for HPV vaccination, but only 2641 females actually started the vaccination process. Out of the women who began vaccinating against HPV, only 30.78 percent of the women and girls, ages 9 to 26, received the full 3-dose regimen.
The study says that about two thirds of the women in the study were Black. The results show that young adult Black women are significantly less likely to complete the full course than their White female counterparts.
The study’s author, Dr. J. Kathleen Tracy, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says that if you don’t complete a full course of the vaccine, you don’t protect yourself.
“If we are going to offer a vaccine, we need to know who’s getting and who’s getting the full course so we know who’s protected and who’s not.”
Dr. Tracy continues stated that she’s shocked women 18 to 26 years old are least likely to follow through with the complete regimen with all of the marketing and attention about the HPV vaccine.
But why are urban women ages 18 to 26 least likely to have a full 3-dose HPV vaccine?
The research suggests that it could be about experience. “It’s probably the first time they [young adult women] are managing their own medical care.” says Dr. Tracy. “The girls and teens in the study, on the other hand, were likely shepherded through the process by parents and guardians, and were therefore more likely to complete the process.”
Although there are a wide number of young women infected with HPV, Dr. Tracy says the vast majority will clear the infection on the own, and only 10 percent will develop persistent infection likely to lead to cervical cancer.
Dr. Tracy encourages all young women to continue Pap smear screenings. “You can’t stop getting your Pap smears as part of cervical cancer prevention because other HPV strains can cause cervical cancer and are not covered by vaccination.” Dr. Tracy continues, “Women need to evaluate which strategy is most comfortable for them.”
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