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Are HPV Vaccines Less Effective in African-American Women?

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Research finds that African-American women are less likely than white women to have the cancer-causing HPV types covered by vaccines currently on the market.

Two HPV vaccines are available in the U.S. and throughout much of the world – Merck’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix- and both cover HPV 16 and 18, respectively, the two “high risk” HPV types found with about 70% of cervical cancers globally.

A number of other “high risk” HPV types can cause cervical cancer, though, so women remain at risk (and should continue having Pap and HPV tests) after being vaccinated.

This point was driven home in October, when Dr. Catherine Hoyo presented data at the International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research that indicates African-American women, compared to white women, are only half as likely to have HPV 16 and 18. African-American women are disproportionately affected by cervical cancer, and are more likely to be diagnosed later when the disease is more difficult to manage. That HPV 16 and 18 is detected less often in African-American women might mean their risk for cervical cancer remains higher even after receiving HPV vaccines.

Differences in the distribution of HPV types have been noted for years, across ethnic groups and in different regions of the world. This latest research offers additional proof of the need for vaccines that cover more HPV types: a number of these “second generation” vaccines are currently in clinical trials, one of which is being evaluated to cover nine different “high risk” types.

Experts are quick to point out that African-American women should receive current HPV vaccines, as they remain at risk for cancers due to HPV 16 and 18 and will still benefit from the vaccines.

Reference:

12th annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research: Abstract B11. Presentation on 10/28/13.