The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a powerful tool in cancer prevention. In combination with cervical cancer screening programs, this vaccine has the potential to nearly eliminate death from cervical cancer. However, this remarkable public health success can only be realized if vaccines reach those most at risk—unscreened women. Vaccinating only those already well-screened would have little impact on cervical cancer mortality, exacerbate disparities, and be a striking public health failure. We use data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System optional Adult HPV Vaccination module between 2013 and 2016 to assess the association between HPV vaccine status and cervical cancer screening behavior. Only 27% of eligible women had received any HPV vaccination. Uninsured women were less likely to be vaccinated (aOR: 0.48, 95% CI:0.30–0.76) and less likely to be screened (aOR: 0.41, 95% CI:0.28–0.60) than insured women. Vaccinated women were more than twice as likely to be up to date on screening than unvaccinated women (aOR: 2.14, 95% CI:1.46–3.12). Younger women were 49% less likely to be up to date on screening (aOR: 0.51, 95% CI:0.37–0.71), but over 4 times more likely to be vaccinated (aOR: 4.44, 95% CI:3.20–6.17) than older women. Unvaccinated, unscreened women are at continued risk for cervical cancer. Uninsured women were most likely to be in this group. Concerted efforts should be focused on increasing vaccination and screening in this population. Cancer prevention innovations, like the HPV vaccine, must reach at-risk populations to avoid further protecting the protected and failing to reduce existing health disparities.
- Cervical cancer
- Human papillomavirus