According to survey results on correlates of HPV vaccine use, a parent's existing health habits or behaviors, like cigarette smoking, may influence the likelihood that they will have their daughters vaccinated against HPV. Researchers who conducted the survey say the link may be explained by the fact that parents who are former or current smokers have a heightened awareness of cancer and its related risks. Results of the survey are published in the February issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

National data on HPV vaccination rates indicate that only 37 percent of females aged 13 to 17 years have received at least one shot in the three-shot vaccine series, even though the vaccine has been FDA-approved since 2006 for use in females aged 9 to 26 years old.

While prior studies have mainly focused on patient knowledge, health beliefs and other medical or demographic variables, results of this survey are among the first to also examine multiple behavioral correlates of HPV vaccine acceptability.

Using information from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute, researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey/UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School analyzed cross-sectional survey data from more than 1,300 U.S. parents or guardians of female children or adolescents (under the age of 18).

Results showed that about 18 percent of the participants would not have their daughter receive the HPV vaccine, about 25 percent were undecided and more than half (about 58 percent) reported they would let their daughter get the vaccine. Among those who said no to receipt of the vaccine, the most common reasons stated were:

    * they do not know enough about the vaccine (about 48 percent);
    * they are worried about the safety of the vaccine (about 20 percent);
    * they believe their daughter is not sexually active (about 9 percent); and
    * they have not received a recommendation from a doctor for their daughter to receive the vaccine (about 6 percent).

Additional reasons included the young age of the daughter; the belief that more research on the HPV vaccine is needed; parental anti-vaccination belief; or the belief that their daughter simply doesn't need the vaccine.

Those who were more accepting of the vaccine were current or former smokers; had engaged in health promoting behaviors such as physical activity within the past month; or had not used alternative, complementary or unconventional therapies within the past year. Furthermore, those who were more accepting of the vaccine also believed that cancer can be cured if caught early.

The findings are important because they represent a national population sample, whereas other studies to date have used local or regional samples. Therefore, these survey results may apply to a larger and more diverse population and provide a benchmark against which studies of regional samples can be compared.

Now that the HPV vaccine is commercially and more widely available, additional studies are likely to focus on vaccine uptake and not just reported HPV vaccine acceptability. Further research is needed, the researchers say, to evaluate these behavioral outcomes, and whether eligible females are getting the vaccine and following through with the full vaccination series.

Citation: Carolyn Y. Fang, Elliot J. Coups, Carolyn J. Heckman, 'Behavioral Correlates of HPV Vaccine Acceptability in the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS)', Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, February 2010, 19(2); 319–26; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-091