Closing the Gap on HPV-Related Cancers
April 05, 2022
Denver, Colorado (April 5, 2022) - During the first week of April each year, communities come together to celebrate National Public Health Week. This year, the Alliance for HPV Free Colorado hopes to raise awareness about the importance of preventing cancer with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. The intention of this vaccine is to prevent HPV-associated diseases and cancers and it is an important step that all parents can take to protect the health of their children.
HPV is a common infection that causes several types of cancer in both men and women, including cervical, penile, anal, oral and throat cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancers from ever developing. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer among women and has the highest percent caused by HPV. According to the American Cancer Society, HPV infection is the largest risk factor for cervical cancer. Notably, HPV related oral and throat cancers are on the rise for men.
Fortunately, there is an easy and safe method for prevention of these cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine be given during a child’s preteen years when their immune response is the strongest. Although recommended at ages 11-12, the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. Parents who choose to initiate vaccination for their children before age 15 will only need to schedule two shots instead of three. If delayed, a child may need more shots to provide full coverage against an HPV infection. The vaccine cost is covered by most insurance companies or can be obtained at low or no cost through a medical provider if one does not have insurance. The Alliance encourages parents to talk with their child’s doctor to learn more about the HPV vaccine. The Alliance for HPV Free Colorado is a collaborative across 15 Colorado counties, leading efforts to increase HPV vaccination rates among youth in Colorado. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, over 350,000 teens ages 11-17 live in these 15 counties, accounting for 70 percent of the total teen population and about 6 percent of the total Colorado population. Increased awareness on the importance of the vaccine has helped prevent HPV related cancer cancers, however, Colorado is falling short of meeting the Healthy People 2030 goal of 80 percent up to date HPV vaccination rates for youth.
HPV-related cancers affect some Colorado communities at higher rates than the national average and the number of people vaccinated against HPV varies greatly depending on location. For example, young people who live in rural or frontier counties are far less likely to receive or complete the HPV vaccine than those who live in urban areas. In addition, the CDC has found Latina women to be at higher risk for cervical cancer diagnosis and death. For these reasons, the Alliance is also focusing on reaching rural and Spanish-speaking communities with messages of the importance of HPV vaccination. If uptake of vaccination completion is not met, as time passes, communities with lower vaccination rates will likely see increased rates of HPV-related cancers.
For more information on the HPV vaccine and on the Alliance for HPV Free Colorado, please go to HPVFreeCO.org. If you would like to get your child vaccinated, please call our Immunization Clinic at 303-602-3520 to make an appointment, or reach out to your child's primary care provider.