Teenage girls living in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV, than those who live in richer areas, researchers report. HPV is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer and some cases of other cancers.
Researchers used a nationally representative sample of 20,565 girls ages 13 to 17 with verified vaccination records. They found that 63.6 percent of girls whose families earned less than $25,000 a year had been vaccinated compared with 52.3 percent of those whose families earned more than $75,000. The study is in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
After adjusting for insurance coverage, income and other factors, they found that Hispanic girls were 49 percent more likely to have been vaccinated than black girls or non-Hispanic whites.
Regardless of race or ethnicity, girls living in predominately non-Hispanic white or non-Hispanic black communities had the lowest rates of vaccination.
Why the disparities exist is not clear, but resistance to vaccines among richer people, and the promotion of programs that offer free vaccines to poor people, may both play a role.
The lead author, Kevin A. Henry, an assistant professor of geography at Temple University, said he was surprised that so many are failing to use an important tool for cancer prevention. “We have a means to prevent cancer, yet the vaccination rates are very low,” he said.