Recognizing a critical need to decrease the national incidence of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), Baylor College of Medicine has united with each of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in issuing a joint statement in support of initiatives to eliminate these cancers though gender-neutral HPV vaccinations and evidence-based cancer screenings.

“The HPV vaccine is safe and effective in preventing many HPV infections that later lead to cancer. To reduce the number of these cases, we, as national leaders in cancer care and research, need to focus on initiatives that encourage the uptake of the vaccine and ensure at-risk patients receive the appropriate screening and care,” said Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor. “This is an important goal the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center is proud to support along with the nation’s other NCI-designated cancer centers.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, incidence rates of HPV-associated cancers have continued to rise, with approximately 40,000 new HPV-associated cancers now diagnosed each year in the United States. Although HPV vaccines can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers, vaccination rates remain low across the U.S., with 49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys completing the recommend vaccine series in 2016.

The call to action from the nation’s NCI-designated cancer centers aims to accomplish an 80 percent vaccination rate for males and females aged 13 to 15 by 2020, conduct cervical cancer screenings for 93 percent of age-eligible females, and provide follow up and proper treatment for females who screen positive for precancerous lesions.

“This could potentially be one of the most effective strategies for cancer prevention that has been proposed, and can essentially eliminate the chances of developing not only carcinomas of the cervix, but also many other types of lethal cancer that are driven by silent HPV infections in both men and women,” said Dr. Matthew Anderson, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor.

Additionally, the group strongly encourages young men and women up to age 26 who were not previously vaccinated to complete the recommended HPV vaccine series, healthcare providers to make strong and concise recommendations for HPV vaccines and cervical cancer screenings, and the healthcare community to encourage parents, guardians, community members and colleagues about the goal to eliminate HPV-related cancers in the United States.

“The Office of Outreach and Health Disparities at Baylor is dedicated to educating the public about breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, and part of those initiatives is encouraging the uptake of the HPV vaccine among our communities and breaking down the stigmas associated with the disease,” said Dr. Maria Jibaja-Weiss, director of the Office. “Through funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, we have developed a project that focuses specifically on promoting the uptake of the HPV vaccine among minority, medically underserved young teens and adolescents using multi-level, system-based interventions in a safety-net healthcare system.”

Additionally, the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities has developed a HPV-specific program which includes a monologue performance and detailed educational materials to engage with the Spanish-speaking public and educate them about these cancers in a unique, personal way.

High HPV vaccination rates, combined with cervical cancer screening and treatment, will result in the elimination of cervical cancer in the near future, followed by the elimination of other HPV-related cancers.

View the full statement.