The Number Of HPV-Related Cancers Is On The Rise

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
The number of HPV-related cancer cases is on the rise in America, according to a new report out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, which looked at data from between 2008 and 2012, found that an average of almost 39,000 HPV-associated cancer cases were diagnosed each year, will a full 41% of them in men. That number is a significant increase from the previous period. From 2004 to 2008, HPV-related cancer cases averaged out to about 33,300 cases per year.

The biggest news, though, is the fact that 28,500 of the yearly cases of HPV-related cancer were attributable to types of HPV that could have been prevented by vaccination. The three-shot course of vaccination protects against the most-dangerous strains of HPV and the CDC recommends vaccinating both boys and girls against the virus at the age of 11 or 12. If you’ve missed it, the health organization recommends a “catch-up” vaccine up to the age of 26.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most-common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. The CDC estimates that about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and adds that most sexually active people — male or female — will contract at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Because HPV is so often asymptomatic, most people will never know they have it.

To make things harder, testing for HPV is difficult. Though there’s no reliable test for men, women can be tested during a Pap smear. The process was recently made easier when the FDA approved a test to streamline the sample-collection process, meaning many women will no longer have to get a separate test done to check for the virus.

Big news for research and testing, but at the end of the day, the vaccination rates just aren’t up to par. Although the study reports that 28,500 cases of cancer this year could have been prevented, vaccination rates are still low. In 2014, only 39.7% of teenage girls had completed the whole series of vaccination and only 21.6% of boys had done the same.

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