Focus at Four: Study says Texas is falling behind on HPV vaccinations

A new study from the University of Texas System says Texas is falling behind on HPV vaccinations.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) has long been associated with cervical cancer in women. Now, the National Cancer Institute says it causes:

35% of penile cancers
50% of vulvar cancers
65% of vaginal cancers
70% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the middle part of
the throat, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue,
and the tonsils)
95% of anal cancers

HPV is transmitted primarily through sexual contact, but its most dangerous forms are essentially preventable with widely available vaccinations.

Still, Texas has the fifth-lowest vacinnation rate in the nation.

Dr. Seth Sullivan, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Scott & Health, and the alternate health authority for the Brazos County Health Department, says the low vaccination rate could be due to perceived implications regarding HPV.

"It can absolutely be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your child, because this is a sexually transmitted disease," said Sullivan. "But it's an important one to have."

Sullivan says that from a medical view, the reward is far greater than the risk.

"This is a vaccine that's been around for a long time, thoroughly vetted," said Sullivan. "And it can prevent cancer. The benefit is huge and the risk is basically non-existent."

For the full conversation with Sullivan, see the video player above. For the full report on the study from the UT system, see the Related Links.