Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota joins nation’s cancer centers in endorsing HPV vaccination for cancer prevention

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota has joined all the other 68 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in issuing a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer.

Several types of high-risk HPV are responsible for the vast majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers. The signed 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 for cancer prevention.

“Everyone wants a vaccination to prevent cancer. The HPV vaccination is a safe, effective way to prevent illness and stop cancer before it starts,” said Douglas Yee, M.D., director of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. Yee is also the John H. Kersey Chair in Cancer Research and treats patients with breast cancer.  “This simple three-course series can save lives, and it is imperative we work together to increase the vaccination rates in the United States to better protect our young people.”

National Cancer Institute-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.

The statement, signed by all designated cancer centers, states in part:

Together we, a group of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers, recognize these low rates of HPV vaccination as a serious public health threat. HPV vaccination represents a rare opportunity to prevent many cases of cancer that is tragically underused. As national leaders in cancer research and clinical care, we are compelled to jointly issue this call to action.

…The low vaccination rates are alarming given our current ability to safely and effectively save lives by preventing HPV infection and its associated cancers.”

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. 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 last November. 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.

Locally, a summit will be held in Minnesota on April 25, 2016, featuring presentations focused on a variety of topics, including: the importance of the HPV vaccine, understanding the barriers to reaching parents regarding the vaccination’s importance, and the role of HPV and the vaccine in public health conversations.