Report: HPV rates remain high because parents won't vaccinate

How squeamishness about the "promiscuity vaccine" is keeping a deadly cancer rate high

By Katie McDonough
January 10, 2013 3:45AM (UTC)
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(AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A report published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that while cancer rates overall continue to decline in the U.S., rates of human papilloma virus-related cancers remain high.

Here's the insane part: This doesn't have to be the case! There is a vaccine that could help stem the number of cancer deaths --  of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, pharynx, anus and throat -- related to HPV each year. It's just that not enough kids are getting it.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began mandating the Gardasil shot for school entry, but parents refused, believing it would only promote sexual activity. (Even though research shows that's not case.) In 2010, fewer than half of girls aged 13-17 had received even one dose of the vaccine, while only 32 percent had received the recommended three doses, according to the report.

Misconceptions about the vaccine and parental squeamishness about inoculating their kids against a sexually transmitted virus make HPV vaccination a touchy subject, but cancer experts insist that it's a hurdle we need to overcome. And soon.

"Just as it is hard for some patients to talk about anal disease or their kids having sex, it's equally hard for some providers to talk about it," Dr. Julian Sanchez, a colorectal-cancer surgeon at City of Hope, told Time magazine. "I talk about it every day, and sometimes it is still difficult for me to approach some patients who I know have a degree of opposition to this type of conversation."



Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Hpv Human Papilloma Virus Sex Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Disease Stds Sti Teens