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What does the public really know about HPV?

jointly funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Annenberg School for Communication and the Sunnylands Trust at Annenberg. It was fielded in June, 2006, roughly coinciding with FDA approval of the vaccine.

A nationally representative sample of U.S. adults over 18 was randomly assigned to read one of three paragraphs about the vaccine, each emphasizing a different point of view: the vaccine protects against cervical cancer; the vaccine protects against cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections; or, the vaccine protects against cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections and may or may not lead to increased sexual promiscuity among those vaccinated. The survey was then given to gauge intentions toward vaccination. It was completed by 635 adults, 49 percent of whom were women.

Researchers found:

  • More than half of respondents (56 percent) had heard of HPV and reported that they had seen or heard news or ads about HPV in the past week;
  • Although 42 percent of respondents had heard about a vaccine for HPV, 80 percent indicated never having talked to a health care provider about the virus.

How the vaccine was presented greatly affected women's intentions to vaccinate. When women read that the vaccine protects only against cervical cancer, 63 percent indicated they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to get vaccinated, compared to 43 percent of women who read that the vaccine protects against cervical cancer and a sexually transmitted infection.

"Despite high levels of exposure to and awareness of the newly approved HPV vaccine, intentions to vaccinate are mixed," said Amy Leader, MPH, Research Director, EPIC Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. "Trends indicate that intentions are highest when the vaccine is framed to solely prevent cervical cancer and lowest when the vaccine is framed to prevent both cervical cancer and a sexually transmit
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Contact: Warren Froelich
froelich@aacr.org
215-440-9300
American Association for Cancer Research
12-Nov-2006


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