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Research shows disparities in HPV-associated cancer survivorship

ADA, MD Anderson collaboration that aims to increase HPV vaccine use ongoing

November 06, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

HPV vaccination and improved access to cancer screenings and treatment may reduce disparities by sex, race and age when it comes to surviving HPV-associated cancers, according to an article published in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer, but it can also cause cancer in the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and oropharynx, which is the base of the tongue, the tonsils and the back of the throat, according to the article, “Five-Year Survival For Human Papillomavirus-Associated Cancer Sites,” which was published online in November in CANCER.

Five-year relative survival was consistently higher among white people than black people for all HPV-associated cancers and all age groups, investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion found in their research.

Furthermore, older people with HPV-associated cancers tended to die sooner after diagnoses than younger people, and men with an HPV-associated cancer of the anus were likely to die sooner than women with the same cancer. They also found that the overall oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma five-year relative survival rate was 51 percent — among the lowest for the HPV-associated cancers included in the study.

“This new study shows that race, sex and age can make a difference in surviving HPV-associated cancers,” said coauthor Mona Saraiya, M.D., in a news release about the article.

Getting the HPV vaccine when recommended at age 11 or 12 is a way people can avoid getting an HPV-related cancer, said Dr. Saraiya.

Earlier this year, the ADA and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced a collaboration to focus on increasing HPV vaccinations and tobacco cessation for oral cancer prevention.

In October, the groups hosted Working Together Against Oropharyngeal Cancer, a symposium where the HPV vaccine and prevention strategies were discussed. To review presentations from the event, visit ADA.org/ADA17OralCancer.

The ADA has other informational resources for dentists related to oropharyngeal cancer, including an Oral Health Topics page, prepared by the ADA Science Institute, and a continuing education course that addresses common questions and answers about HPV transmission and HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

Dentists can also refer their patients to ADA’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, for information about HPV and oral cancers.