Young women of faith less aware of cervical cancer risk

A University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute survey has found women who practise a religion are less likely to know about the human papillomavirus (HPV) than women without a religion.

Among a host of other diseases, HPV immunisation aims to protect young people from HPV infection and the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Women who practise a religion are also less likely to know about or have had the HPV vaccine available to 11 and 12 year-olds. Besides HPV, the vaccine guards against several different types of cancer.

The study found compared to women who didn’t practise a religion, those who did were nearly 60 percent less likely to know about the vaccine and about half as likely to have received at least one dose.

Senior author of the survey, Deanna Kepka, says while religious girls may be less likely to receive the vaccine, or may perceive themselves as having less risk, she says she “wouldn’t expect them to be less informed about the vaccine.”

The women surveyed were between the ages 18 to 26.

Survey responses were returned by 148 women who practiced an organised religion and 178 women who said they weren’t religious.

About 97 percent of non-religious women said they had heard of HPV, compared to about 90 percent of religious women.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infection usually resolves on its own without causing health problems, but it can lead to cancer and genital warts if it doesn’t clear up.

HPV infections can cause cervical, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, throat and other cancers.


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