A report that focused on the two-year period 2013-2014 showed that 23 percent of American adults (citizens between 19 and 59 years old) suffer from a certain type of genital HPV or human papillomavirus. This virus responsible for particular types of genital cancer, causing infected people to be in a high-risk state.
The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention published a report this Thursday with worrying numbers for health authorities in the United States. The publication manifested that when adding all types of HPV cases, the percentage of affected adults rose to 43 percent.
Geraldine McQuillan, the lead author of the report, said that this problem is often left behind as people do not give the attention it deserves.
“We tend to overlook the fact that 20 percent of us are carrying the virus that can cause cancer,” stated McQuillan, senior infectious disease epidemiologist in the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “People really need to realize that this is a serious concern.”
The survey also showed that men were the most affected by HPV when compared to women, while black people were considerably more affected when compared to other ethnic and racial groups. On the other hand, Asians were the least affected ethnic group.
The human papillomavirus in the United States
Among all the sexually transmitted diseases in the country, the human papillomavirus is by far the most common one. Currently, in the U.S., there are about 80 million people who have HPV and nearly 15 million adults and teenagers will receive it on an annual basis according to CDC’s estimations.
Even when in most of these cases the patients do not present any symptoms, HPV could mean a potential risk to them. This is because some papillomavirus strains could lead to certain types of cancer or genital warts.
According to CDC’s registers, more than 30,000 men and women are diagnosed with cancer every year caused by HPV. The agency says that most of these cancer cases could be prevented with the usage of the human papillomavirus vaccine.
Vaccines are effective, and Scottland knows it better than anyone
Recent reports from Scottland’s health agencies have shown a dramatic drop in its HPV national rates since the start of a vaccination campaign. As much as 90 percent is the total decrease in the rates of HPV cases among Scottish women since the beginning of the campaign, researchers found.
In this European country, HPV is responsible for 90 percent of cervical cancer cases, and now, scientists hope to reduce the number of cases regarding that type of cancer in the next years, thanks to the vaccination process.
“The two HPV types we were vaccinating against – HPV 16 and HPV 18 – cause about 70% to 80% of cervical cancers within Scotland but the vaccine has exceeded our expectations because it appears to have knocked out another three high-risk HPV types which cause about 10% of cervical cancers,” said Dr. Kevin Pollock, senior epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland.
Recent studies have shown that human papillomavirus is responsible for other types of cancer like vulvovaginal, anal and a subset of head and neck cancers. However, the survey conducted in Scottland demonstrated that the vaccine is effective at attacking several strains of the virus, reducing the risk of developing cancer considerably.
The survey was conducted by analyzing samples of more than 20,000 women, which makes this study one of the largest ever conducted in Scottland’s history regarding the impact of a vaccine.
CDC recommendation? Vaccines
The CDC strongly recommends vaccination for people between 11 and 12 years old to create resistance to the virus at the moment of performing any sexual activity or contact. The agency has stated that even when the vaccination rates are augmenting, the rates among boys and girls are not as high as expected.
There a body of misconceptions and fears that could be producing the stagnation of the vaccination rates among the young says Electra Paskett, a cancer control researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. She says that people might think that the vaccines are encouraging children to become promiscuous at early ages, which could be stopping parents from acting.
She explains that a possible solution is to introduce the vaccine to the population in a different way. For example, in Australia and the United Kingdom (including Scottland who presented the dramatic HPV rate drops), the vaccine was introduced as a cancer vaccine, which Paskett says, is what it really is.