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Around a fifth of unvaccinated ethnic school girls think they don’t need HPV jab

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Around 20 per cent of girls from ethnic minority backgrounds are not being vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) because they feel they don't need to have it, according to a Cancer Research UK survey presented today at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool*.

Reasons included: 'Because I am not sexually active and will not be until I get married' and: 'My Mum didn't think it was necessary for me to have the vaccine since I won't be sleeping around'.

This is the first study done with an ethnically diverse group of girls to look at why they are not vaccinated, or do not complete the series of injections.

Researchers found that 17 per cent of girls from black backgrounds and 22 per cent of girls from Asian backgrounds who hadn't been vaccinated said that they did not need the vaccination and the reasons they gave included that they did not expect to be sexually active before marriage.

Unvaccinated girls from black backgrounds were most likely – 20 per cent of those surveyed – to say their parents did not allow them to have the vaccination but without providing further explanation. The study authors think this could mean they had not had a conversation with their parents about the vaccine.

Concerns about side effects of the vaccination were most commonly reported by unvaccinated girls from white backgrounds – 27 per cent.

The questionnaire was given to girls aged 15-16 in ethnically diverse schools in London including girls from white, black, Asian and other ethnicities. Although the majority of the 2,163 girls included in the research had been fully vaccinated, 233 were unvaccinated and 122 under vaccinated – meaning they didn't have every dose of the vaccine.

The vaccination protects against infection from the two types of Human Papilloma Virus that cause seven in 10 cases of cervical cancer, as well as two other types of the virus linked with genital warts. It is offered as a series of two injections** over at least six months to UK schoolgirls aged 12 -13.

Dr Alice Forster, study author and Cancer Research UK scientist at University College London, said: "Although around 87 per cent of girls in the UK do have the vaccine it's concerning to see that some girls from some ethnic minority groups feel they don't need to have it.

Around 3010 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK. And 930 women die from the disease. The HPV vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent infection from HPV and reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.

"Getting to the root of why some girls don't have the vaccine will help us address these barriers to ensure every girl can receive this protection against the disease," said Dr Forster.

Professor Charlie Swanton, NCRI chair and Cancer Research UK scientist at the Francis Crick Institute, said: "These are worrying findings. The HPV vaccine is safe and simple – and stopping HPV infection can help protect against cervical cancer developing. So it's crucial we find out what's stopping girls from defending themselves against the disease. Providing more information to both girls and their parents on the safety of the vaccine and addressing the perceived lack of need for it is the first step."

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "As someone with an ethnic minority background myself and as a parent, this study highlights a very worrying reason why girls from some minority groups don't get the HPV vaccine. Gaining insight into the discussions at home and why girls chose not to be vaccinated against HPV is crucial to make sure we provide families with the best information and the confidence to take up the vaccination when invited to do so."

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This study was funded by Cancer Research UK.

For media enquiries contact Stephanie McClellan in the NCRI press office on 0151 707 4642/43/44/45/46 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:

*NCRI conference abstract: http://abstracts.ncri.org.uk/abstract/why-are-girls-unvaccinated-or-under-vaccinated-against-human-papillomavirus-a-content-analysis-2/

**The girls in this study received three doses of the vaccine. It is now offered as a series of two injections.

About the NCRI

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) was established in 2001. It is a UK-wide partnership between cancer research funders which promotes collaboration in the field. Its member organisations work together to maximise the value and benefits of cancer research for patients and the public.

NCRI members are: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research); Breast Cancer Now; Cancer Research UK; Children with Cancer UK, Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Macmillan Cancer Support; Marie Curie; Medical Research Council; Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Public Health Agency (Research & Development Department); Prostate Cancer UK; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Government Health Directorates (Chief Scientist Office); Tenovus Cancer Care; The Wellcome Trust; Welsh Assembly Government (Health and Care Research Wales); and Worldwide Cancer Research (formerly AICR).

For more information visit http://www.ncri.org.uk

About the NCRI Cancer Conference

The NCRI Cancer Conference is the UK's major forum for showcasing the best British and international cancer research.

  • The Conference offers unique opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge by bringing together world-leading experts from all cancer research disciplines.
  • The NCRI Cancer Conference is taking place from 1-4 November 2015 at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool.
  • For more information visit conference.ncri.org.uk

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years within the next 20 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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