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Recognizing HPV Awareness Day

, by Laura Wagstaff and Ted Trimble

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, with over 500,000 new cases estimated each year. Although the global burden is great, it is not equally distributed between nations – more than 85% of cervical cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. On Sunday, March 4, we will join organizations around the world to promote awareness and education about HPV infection and the HPV-associated diseases that can be prevented through vaccination.

HPV, or human papillomaviruses, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer. Though the association between cervical cancer and HPV is irrefutable, HPV can also cause several other types of cancer, including anal, oral, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been a pioneer in the field of studying and developing solutions for infection-related cancers. Two NCI scientists, Drs. Douglas Lowy and John Schiller, recently received the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their significant research leading to the development of HPV vaccines. Widespread vaccination is estimated to have the potential reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality by more than two-thirds.

NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics has undertaken an exciting new clinical trial in Costa Rica, comparing the efficacy of one or two doses of the HPV vaccine. This trial, which is jointly supported by the US NCI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, builds on previous research suggesting that fewer doses of the vaccine may be as protective as three doses. This example of transnational collaboration highlights a shared global interest in disease prevention and the critical role international partners play in informing national strategies for the prevention of HPV-associated cancers.

CGH continues to strengthen NCI’s legacy in the HPV prevention arena through collaborative cancer control efforts. Our participation at the three APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum workshops on HPV and cervical cancer in Beijing (2014), Lima (2015) and Ho Chi Minh City (2017) have led to the development of new strategies for implementing and promoting cervical cancer prevention and control policies. In addition, CGH maintains a longstanding partnership with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an organization dedicated to helping women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America access preventive care and treatment for women’s cancers.

Our continued work with nations around the world aims to increase awareness of cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment; build health system capacity for widespread implementation of the HPV vaccine; and advocate for both young women and men to protect themselves against a largely preventable range of malignancies. We hope that you will join the conversation on Sunday, March 4 to promote HPV awareness by using the hashtag #HPVaware on Twitter.

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