What do women in the U.S. know about human papillomavirus and cervical cancer?

Jasmin A Tiro, Helen I Meissner, Sarah Kobrin, Veronica Chollette
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2007, 16 (2): 288-94

BACKGROUND: Women need to understand the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer in order to make appropriate, evidence-based choices among existing prevention strategies (Pap test, HPV DNA test, and HPV vaccine). Assessment of the public's knowledge in nationally representative samples is a high priority for cervical cancer control.

OBJECTIVES: To assess factors associated with U.S. women's awareness of HPV and knowledge about its link to cervical cancer.

METHODS: Analyzed cross-sectional data from women ages 18 to 75 years old responding to the 2005 Health Information National Trends Survey (n = 3,076).

RESULTS: Among the 40% of women who had ever heard about HPV, <50% knew it caused cervical cancer; knowledge that HPV was sexually transmitted and caused abnormal Pap tests was higher (64% and 79%, respectively). Factors associated with having heard about HPV included: younger age, being non-Hispanic White, higher educational attainment, exposure to multiple health information sources, trusting health information, regular Pap tests, awareness of changes in cervical cancer screening guidelines, and having tested positive for HPV. Accurate knowledge of the HPV-cervical cancer link was associated with abnormal Pap and positive HPV test results.

CONCLUSIONS: Awareness about HPV among U.S. women is low. Having heard about HPV did not ensure accurate knowledge. Strategies for communicating accurate information about HPV transmission, prevention, and detection as well as risk and treatment of cervical cancer are needed.

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