Mum's testing affects HPV jab uptake, says survey

HPV on a smear The human papilloma virus can cause cervical cancer and genital warts

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A mother's attitude towards cervical cancer screening influences decisions to vaccinate daughters against the cancer, researchers in Manchester say.

Data from 117,000 girls was analysed.

The odds of a teenager having the HPV vaccine were three times higher if their mother had been tested in the past five years.

The study, in the European Journal of Cancer, also showed daughters were more likely to have been vaccinated if their mothers received an abnormal result.

The cervical cancer vaccine was introduced in the UK in 2008 and is offered to girls with parental consent in their second year of secondary school with catch-up campaigns in older teenagers.

It provides immunity to the sexually transmitted infection responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

New finding

The team from the University of Manchester linked cervical screening records and HPV vaccination records in the north-east of England by address.

It is the first time such a link has been studied in the UK.

They found that the uptake of HPV vaccination among 12-13-year-olds in those whose mothers had never been screened for cervical cancer was 58%.

Start Quote

"It shows there is a link within families and that targeting both mothers and daughters may have an influence on uptake of prevention programmes”

End Quote Angela Spencer University of Manchester researcher

In the same age group whose mothers had been screened for cervical cancer in the past five years, the uptake was almost 84%.

Further analysis showed mothers who had personally decided to stop screening were less likely to have vaccinated their daughters than those who had stopped for medical reasons.

The researchers are now planning to carry out in-depth interviews. They want to out what influences a mother's decision to give consent for her daughter to be vaccinated and whether socio-economic factors play a part.

But they pointed out that there were important public health implications to the findings.

They said not only are teenagers of mothers not engaging with screening less likely to be vaccinated they are also less likely to engage with screening themselves when they get older, putting them at risk.

And maintaining high HPV vaccine coverage is extremely important because figures show cervical screening coverage is declining among 25-29-year-olds with some evidence of increasing cancer incidence at younger ages, they pointed out.

Family pattern

Research assistant Angela Spencer said the results suggest that a mother's attitudes and behaviour with respect to her own cervical screening attendance or to preventive programmes in general, are important determinants in her decision to vaccinate her daughter, particularly at younger ages.

She added: "It shows there is a link within families and that targeting both mothers and daughters may have an influence on uptake of prevention programmes."

Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, said: "HPV vaccination and screening are the best ways of reducing the risk of cervical cancer.

"This study adds to our knowledge about the factors that affect vaccination behaviour, including the influence of family and friends.

"It's important to ensure all women understand the importance of HPV vaccination and cervical screening and their role in saving lives."

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