Researchers have found that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may reduce the rate of oral HPV infections in young adults by as much as 88%. However, given the vaccine’s low rate of uptake in the U.S. – especially in males – the impact of the vaccine on oral HPV infections remains low.
This is the first study to explore the possible impact of HPV vaccination on oral HPV infections. The findings were presented by Maura L. Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Thoracic/ Head and Neck Medical Oncology, in advance of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2017 Annual Meeting in June. The study was conducted while Gillison was at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Studies have shown HPV is responsible for several cancer types in men and women, including cancers in the back of the throat in an area known as the oropharynx. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is linked with approximately 70% of oropharyngeal cancers, and incidence of the disease is rising dramatically in the U.S.
Unfortunately, explains Gillison, no clinical trials have prospectively evaluated whether the existing FDA-approved HPV vaccines will prevent oral infections that lead to the disease. Therefore, the vaccine isn’t approved for the prevention of head and neck cancers. It is approved for the prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers in women and anal cancers in men.
“We don’t know if there’s a potential solution to these rising rates already existing on the shelves,” Gillison says. “In the absence of that gold standard clinical trial, we looked at data from a study that we’ve been conducting in my lab to address the question as to whether or not existing HPV vaccines could be altering oral HPV infections in the U.S. population.”
Gillison and her team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) – a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics to assess the health and wellness of the U.S. population. Since 2009, Gillison and colleagues have collaborated with NHANES to study oral HPV infections and have analyzed oral rinse samples collected by mobile health facilities.
For this current study, researchers analyzed data from 2011 to 2014 in which participants self-reported whether they had received one or more HPV vaccines. Researchers analyzed responses from 2,627 young adults ages 18-33, and compared the prevalence of an oral HPV infection in those who received one more dose of the vaccine to those who did not.
At that time, about 18.3% of young adults in the U.S. reported receiving one or more doses of the vaccine by age 26, with vaccination more common in women (29.2%) than men (6.9%). Today, those rates have risen – albeit slowly – to 63% of teen girls and 50% of teen boys.
In the cohort, the researchers evaluated the prevalence of HPV type 16, 8, 6 and 11 – the four types included in HPV vaccines before 2016.
The researchers observed that the prevalence of vaccine-type infections was far less common in individuals who had been vaccinated than not vaccinated. When comparing the two groups, the infection rates in the vaccinated group was about 88% lower than in those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
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