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Most Cancer Deaths Continue to Drop

Cancer: The Good and the Bad News

“We need to build on the progress and need a better understanding of why certain cancer death rates are dropping, and a better understanding about those that aren’t,” Saltz says. These include cancers related to HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that may increase risk of cervical, oral, anal, and other cancers.

From 2000 to 2009, rates of HPV-related oral cancer increased among white men and women. In addition, rates for anal cancer among white and African-American men and women continued to rise. In 2010, fewer than half of girls aged 13 to 16 got at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, and just 32% got all three doses.

Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) are approved to help prevent most cervical cancers in women. Gardasil may protect against genital warts and cancers of the anus, vagina, and vulva. Both vaccines are available for females. Only Gardasil can be used by males. The CDC recommends that all 11- or 12-year-old girls get the three shots of either vaccine. The CDC recommends Gardasil for all boys aged 11 or 12.

“HPV is an anti-cancer vaccine. If only we had vaccines to prevent other cancers as well,” Simard says.

“We can always do better,” says Richard Smith, MD. He is a head and neck cancer specialist at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York City. He says that the rise in HPV-related cancers has only just begun.  “This epidemic will become more prevalent over the next number of years.”

Julian Sanchez, MD, explains the risk. He is an expert in anal cancer at the City of Hope Cancer Center. He has seen a huge increase in anal cancer in recent years. “Anal cancer is becoming a real public health problem, and we have a way to prevent it,” he says. “We need to increase awareness for the vaccine against HPV in girls and boys before they become sexually active.”

The full report appears online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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