HPV increases fear of tumors but not vaccinations

HPV increases fear of tumors but not vaccinations

Cervical cancer affected 2,479 Italians in 2022 and caused 1,156 deaths. It therefore remains an important cause of death in our country, and more can certainly be done in terms of prevention. In 2021, for example, only 32% of girls and 26% of boys aged 12 and over were vaccinated against HPV (the virus that can cause cervical cancer and other cancers), against an optimal threshold of 95%. This is due, at least in part, to the lack of information on the topic: in 2024, in fact, the number of parents who know about the papilloma virus (or HPV) and the related vaccination is decreasing, as is the number of women and parents who believe cancer is preventable . This was revealed by a new Censis report, created with the unconditional support of MSD Italia, and dedicated to the perception of the risk of HPV cancer and the prevention strategies adopted through a survey conducted on two samples, one of parents and one of women.

Declining knowledge

The Censis report “Papillomavirus: towards the elimination of HPV tumors” was presented today in Rome, and reveals that the number of Italian parents who know what the Papilloma virus and the vaccination against HPV are: today they are, respectively , 84.1% and 74.8%, against 88.9% and 79.4% in 2022. Knowledge has also decreased among mothers (they were 95.5%, now they are 91 .7%) and among parents with a higher level of education (they were 94.0% in 2022, now they are 87.7%), the two categories historically most attentive to the problem. The percentage of parents who know that HPV is responsible for cervical cancer is high (83.9%), but the percentage has dropped (77.5% compared to 82.4% in 2022) Who knows that the virus causes various pathologies of the genital system, and that very often it remains completely asymptomatic.

However, the percentage of parents who mistakenly believe that HPV is a virus that only affects women has significantly reduced (going from 24.8% to 13.0%). Among the sources of information cited by parents, the key role assumed in 2024 by the media emerges, thanks to the recent information campaigns on HPV: in fact, 29.1% today indicate communication campaigns, the 20.5% various information and promotional materials such as leaflets and posters, 25.4% websites. Only next are health professionals mentioned: general practitioner (23.1%), vaccination service of the local health authority (20.9%) and gynecologist (20.2%).

Attention to HPV remains high

58.7% of parents and 62.2% of women interviewed by Censis stated that the prevention behaviors they adopt most are preventive checks (screening, diagnostic checks in the absence of symptoms, etc.). Only 16.1% (which rises to 23.6% in the youngest), fortunately, have not carried out any prevention activity in the last three years. Screenings for cervical cancer (Pap test and HPV test) are the checks that women declared having carried out the most in the last three years (54.9%), and the propensity to carry out diagnostic tests is increasing preventive measures on their own initiative: in the last three years, 48% of parents and 62.9% of women have done so, also integrating screening.

However, women are vaccinated more and parents are increasingly convinced of vaccinating their children. Women between the ages of 25 and 55 who declared having had the anti-HPV vaccination are 24.5%, which rises to 42.3% in the youngest age group (25-35 years). The number of parents who declared having vaccinated their children is also increasing: they were 46.1% in 2022 and today they are equal to 56.1%. The resumption of the operation of the vaccination services of the local health authorities after Covid also contributed to the choice of parents, as evidenced by the percentages of parents informed of the possibility of vaccinating their children by call or letter, which goes back from 43.3% to 49. 8%, without however returning to previous levels.

The post-Covid period does not favor prevention. 65.1% of parents and 60.9% of women are of the opinion that tumors can be prevented. Among the prevention strategies, preventive medical and diagnostic checks are highlighted first and foremost (indicated by 80.6% of parents and 84.7% of women). Yet, the approach towards prevention strategies is still conditioned by the level of education, with greater awareness and greater commitment on the part of those with higher qualifications, while vaccination loses ground: in 2022 it was cited as a strategy of prevention adopted by 39.1% of parents, today only 22.8%.

The most feared diseases

In the sample reached by Censis, tumors are the diseases most feared by both parents (70.8%) and women (72.4%), with growing percentages. This is followed by dementia (feared by 41.2% of parents and 45.7% of women), diseases that cause physical non-self-sufficiency (29.5% and 30.5%), cardiovascular diseases (15.5% % of parents fear them, but it is higher for fathers with 22.0%). Only 65.1% of parents and 60.9% of women, however, are of the opinion that tumors can be prevented. And the approach towards prevention strategies is still conditioned by the level of education, with greater awareness and greater commitment on the part of those with higher qualifications. Furthermore, vaccination is losing ground: in 2022, 39.1% of parents cited it as the prevention strategy adopted, today only 22.8%.

“The anti-HPV vaccination represents one of the most effective forms of cancer prevention”, underlined Francesco Perrone, President of Aiom. “On prevention, both primary and secondary, we must keep citizens’ sensitivity high, particularly those with a lower social and educational level, among whom there is a concentration of both risk factors and poor adherence to vaccination campaigns and screening”.

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