Cases of HPV-Linked Cancers Increase in Parts of United States With High Smoking Rates

The research team used the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, which provides nationwide information on cancer statistics.

Incidences of several human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers in both men and women are increasing in low-income counties and areas with high smoking rates, according to a new paper published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum. The analysis found that increases in HPV-associated anal, oropharyngeal, and vulvar cancer are slower in the highest-income US counties and those with low smoking rates.

Because of the consistent growth in these HPV-associated cancers, it is important to know the risk factors, which include smoking and risky sexual activities, both of which are common in poorer parts of the United States, according to the investigators.

The research team used the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, which provides nationwide information on cancer statistics. The investigators analyzed HPV-associated cancers by US-county level income and smoking prevalence between 2000 and 2018.

The team found that incidence of anal and vulvar cancer among women and anal cancer incidence among men increased significantly in the lowest-income counties and counties with high smoking rates, whereas the increases were slower in higher-income counterparts.

Cervical cancer incidence leveled out and did not rise in the highest income counties, whereas it increased 1.6% per year in the lowest income counties. Further, oropharyngeal cancer rates among women increased by 1.3% per year in low-income counties and only by .1% in high-income areas. As for anal cancer rates among women, the numbers increased by 3.2% in low-income counties, but by only 2.6% in high-income areas. Vulvar cancer rates increased 1.9% per year in the lowest-income counties compared with 0.8% per year in the highest-income counties.

Rates for vulvar cancer increased 1.9% per year in the lowest-income counties compared to a 0.8% per year in the highest-income counties. Meanwhile, vaginal cancer rates increased by 2% per year in low-income counties and declined by .3% in wealthier areas.

Oropharyngeal cancer rates in men increased by 2.1% per year in low-income counties and by 1.7% per year in high-income counties, whereas anal cancer rates increased by 3.9% in low-income areas compared with 1.5% in high-income counties.

Low-income counties marked increases in cancer rates compared to their counterparts, as anal cancer among women increased by 5% per year for those living in high-smoking counties and only 1.9% per year for those living in lower smoking-rate counties. Additionally, vulvar cancer increased by 3.8% per year for those living in high-smoking counties and only .6% for those living in lower smoking-rate counties.

“HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening are the cornerstone interventions to prevent avoidable suffering caused by six cancers,” said study senior investigator, Ashish Deshmukh, in a press release. “Unfortunately, cervical cancer screening rates declined in recent years and HPV vaccination rates remains 15% points lower in rural low-income counties. The COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted the delivery of preventative care. Urgent and collective efforts are needed to prevent growing disparities from worsening.”

REFERENCE

Increases in HPV-linked cancers in parts of US with high smoking rates. EurekAlert! March 3, 2022. Accessed March 8, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/944636