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Can We Vaccinate Against Cancer? Yes

Cancer Center joins state's new campaign targeting HPV

TsueProtect your kids against cancer. That's the message of the Kansas HPV Vaccination Project, a new immunization campaign encouraging Kansas parents to vaccinate their children against HPV, a common virus.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center has joined forces with the Midwest Cancer Alliance and the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care to fight HPV, a leading cause of cervical and head and neck cancers. Kansas and Missouri are among the lowest in HPV vaccination rates.

As part of the campaign, the cancer center sponsored a public screening of the feature-length documentary, "Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic," at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. The dramatic film tells the stories of five women as they battle cervical cancer and triumph over the deadly disease.

About 33,200 HPV-associated cancers occur each year in the U.S. – 20,600 in women and 12,600 in men.

"The increase of new cases of head and neck cancers caused by HPV is significant," said Terry Tsue, MD, cancer center physician in chief. "With more than 20 million people in the U.S. infected with HPV, HPV-related throat cancer is increasing by 5 percent each year and is expected to surpass cervical cancer cases within the decade."

A panel discussion after the screening included Tsue; Melinda Wharton, MD, director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and cancer survivors Megan Caron and Neal Jones.

Research suggests HPV vaccines can help protect against cancer since many are associated with the virus. The campaign recommends parents have their children (girls and boys) vaccinated for HPV at age 11 or 12.

Immunization involves a series of three shots over six months. Studies show HPV vaccines are just as safe as other adolescent vaccines. (Two University of Kansas researchers led the HPV vaccine's development.) Go to 3protectkids.com for a list of locations where children can get the HPV vaccine.

"As parents, we want to protect our children in every possible way," Tsue said. "The HPV immunization is one way we can do just that. It's cancer prevention."