Focusing on Prevention This International HPV Awareness Day

March 4, 2020

March 4 is International HPV Awareness Day, which aims to promote education about the human papillomavirus (HPV), raise awareness about prevention methods, and encourage governments and individuals to take advantage of the HPV vaccine and screening for cancer—goals that ASCO supports.

ASCO strongly supports increasing the use of the HPV vaccine to reduce the risk of cancer. In its April 2016 policy statement, the Society recommended increasing the proportion of young boys and girls receiving the HPV vaccine in worldwide because research has shown its effectiveness in preventing cancer.

In its recently released 2020 Clinical Cancer Advances report, the ASCO also highlighted that real-world, long-term follow-up is supporting of the earlier evidence that HPV vaccines reduce cervical cancer risk. The report notes that “Since the first vaccine was licensed in 2006, nearly 100 countries have instituted HPV vaccination programs. … Clinical trials that led to vaccine approvals showed nearly 100% protection against persistent cervical infections with HPV types 16 and 18, which account for 70% of cervical cancers and 86%-95% of all other HPV-associated cancers.” The report, published last month, also cites analysis of data from 40 trials in 14 high-income countries, in which “researchers reported that the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 dropped by 83% among females age 13-19 years and by 66% in young women age 20-24 years in the 5-8 years after the introduction of HPV vaccination. The prevalence also decreased for women age 25-29 years (most of whom are unvaccinated in the general population) in the same period. Decreases in prevalence were also seen for HPV 31, 33, and 45 for females age 13-24 years.”[i]

Despite this decrease, the American Cancer Society’s annual report released in January noted that “although cervical cancer is highly preventable through the HPV vaccine and screening, it is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women ages 20-39 years.”[ii]

Thus, the key to getting this proven vaccine to work is to increase its uptake and accessibility. As ASCO CEO Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO, said in his World Cancer Day blog post on February 4, “Prevention is, of course, an ultimate goal, and, where it is proven effective, clinical access is the key to progress.”

The Society is only one member of a larger community with an increased focus on the role of vaccines in preventing cancer. In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a call to action to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. Researchers then modeled the impact of HPV vaccination rates in an article published in The Lancet Oncology last February and predicted that if vaccines were given to 80% or more of the population, there would be approximately 13 million fewer cases of the disease, a 29% decrease.

According to the WHO, cervical cancer, caused by HPV, is the fourth most common cancer for women, accounting for more than 6% of total female cancers[iii] and nearly 12% of all cancers in less-developed regions[iv]. In the U.S. we have some positive news on this front: A brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics released in January found that the number of young adults aged 18 to 26 who’d received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine nearly doubled from 22.1% to 39.9% between 2013 and 2018.

There also is progress to relate from across the globe. As reported in a 2018 article in Vaccine, more than 80 countries worldwide now have HPV vaccination programs. The report also noted that focusing on 100% vaccine coverage can be counterproductive—even a 40% coverage level can make a significant impact. “Introduction should be encouraged, alongside experimentation with delivery strategies and intervals between doses to enable countries to design their own sustainable programs.”[v]

Related resources:

  • Watch a video about the Society’s recommendations for reducing the global burden of cervical cancer.
  • Read the Society’s 2016 policy statement supporting the recommendation to increase the proportion of young boys and girls receiving the HPV vaccine in the United States and worldwide.
  • Read the Society’s 2016 policy brief supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for a 2-dose series of 9vHPV to prevent HPV-related cancers.
  • Review the Society’s 2017 evidence-based clinical practice guideline on the use of the HPV vaccine for preventing cervical cancer for physicians in various resource settings around the world.
  • Review doctor-approved resources from Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website:



[i] Markham, MJ et al. “Clinical Cancer Advances 2020: Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer From the American Society of Clinical Oncology.” Journal of Clinical Oncology. Feb. 4, 2020. Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

[ii] ” Facts & Figures 2020 Reports Largest One-year Drop in Cancer Mortality.” American Cancer Society. Jan. 8, 2020. Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

[iii] “Cervical Cancer.” World Health Organization. Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

[iv] “Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).” World Health Organization. Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

[v] Gallagher K.E., LaMontagne D.S., Watson-Jones D. “Status of HPV vaccine introduction and barriers to country uptake.” Vaccine. Vol. 36, Iss. 32, Part A. August 6, 2018. Pages 4761-4767.