medwireNews: A survey of New York state medical students suggests many are unaware of the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the risk for head and neck cancer.
In all, 617 of the 707 students polled completed the questionnaire, say Benjamin Laitman, from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, USA, and co-authors of the report published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.
Overall, 99.0% of students understood the link between persistent HPV infection and cervical cancer, and the majority knew of the associations with genital cancer (75.9%), genital warts (81.5%) and anal cancer (76.7%).
By contrast, the links between HPV infection and head and neck cancer, and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, were identified by just 47.2% and 28.5% of students, respectively. These rates were similar to the proportion of students who incorrectly identified diseases linked to HPV infection, such as esophageal cancer (44.9%).
“Although this study is limited by its low response rate […] relative to the total number of medical students in New York state, this education gap may be generalizable to students nationally,” the researchers warn.
“To increase HPV vaccination rates and have an impact on the future of this epidemic, physicians must be informed; thus, head and neck manifestations of persistent HPV infection should be emphasized in medical school curricula,” they suggest.
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