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Study Shows Religious Women Less Informed About HPV

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A new study from researchers at the University of Utah shows people who identify as religious are less informed than non-religious people about the human papillomavirus and the HPV vaccine. It also shows they are less likely to get vaccinated.

The study was published Friday in the journal, PLOS One.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. About one in four sexually active people have it. For most people the virus goes away on its own, but it is a cause of seven types of cancer, including cervical cancer in women.

Deanna Kepka is a professor of cancer control and population sciences at Huntsman Cancer Institute. She is the lead author of the study.

"We have this cancer prevention vaccine that, in Utah, less than half our kids are getting it. And we want people to at least be making the choice," Kepka says. 

Men and women can receive the HPV vaccine until age 26. The virus is undetectable in men. Kepka and her colleagues surveyed 326 women aged 18-26. They found those with a religious affiliation were more than twice as likely to go unvaccinated, and even less likely to be told about the HPV vaccine to begin with.

Kepka says there are multiple reason why this information isn’t getting to religious women.

"It could be that providers are making assumptions and they’re not talking about it with them. It could also be that they’re saying that they’re not interested and not necessarily pursuing it further. It could be your peer groups aren’t talking about it," Kepka says. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah ranks among the last ten states in the country for HPV vaccination rates. 

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