MONDAY, Feb. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds no
evidence that getting the cervical cancer vaccine will encourage
young girls to engage in sexual activity or give them a false sense
of security about sex.
The study found that what a girl believes about the human
papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has no bearing on her decision to
become sexually active or engage in risky sexual behavior.
Experts hope the research will reassure parents who fear that
the vaccine might encourage sexual activity.
"Parental concerns have, in part, driven the relatively low acceptance rates of HPV vaccines compared to other adolescent vaccines and present a barrier to clinicians," said study author Dr. Jessica Kahn, who practices adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Despite the fact that HPV vaccines protect against viruses that
cause about 70 percent of all cervical cancers, and about half of
all cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus, they've been a
Only one-third of teenage girls got all three recommended doses
of the vaccine in 2012, and only half got a single dose, according
to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
For the study, Kahn and her colleagues surveyed more than 300
girls who were between the ages of 13 and 21 when they got their
first dose of the vaccine.
She asked about their sexual experience, and about the need to
practice safe sex. She also asked them how worried they felt about
getting sexually transmitted infections other than HPV after their
Kahn asked the same questions two and six months later to see if
anything had changed. She also wanted to know if how the young
women felt about the protection they were getting from the shots
might be linked to subsequent sexual behavior.
She found nothing to suggest the shots were influencing the
girls' sexual activity.
"Whatever they believed, those key beliefs around the need for safe sex, and whether they're protected against other sexually transmitted infections, they were not associated with riskier behaviors," Kahn said.
Overall, 58 percent of girls reported that they had been
sexually active with a man or woman, while 42 percent said they
were sexually inexperienced at the start of the study. Whether or
not a girl was sexually experienced largely depended upon her age.
Older girls were more likely to be sexually active than younger
Out of 99 girls who were sexually inexperienced at the start of
the study, 20 had become sexually active six months after they got
Among girls who were already sexually active when they started
the vaccine, most said they were using condoms with intercourse two
and six months later. And a minority, 34 percent, reported having
more than two male partners during that time.
"We didn't find anything concerning," Kahn said.
The study was published online Feb. 3 in the journal
The finding echoes the conclusions of a smaller study published
Jan. 6 in the
Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. That study,
which surveyed 153 young women who'd been vaccinated against HPV
and compared them with 70 who'd not had the shots, found no
significant differences in the age girls started having sex or in
their numbers of sexual partners. There were also no differences in
high-risk sexual behaviors or attitudes about safe sex between the
"By far, the weight of evidence would dispel that myth of disinhibition for teen girls," said Dr. Ginny Ryan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City.
Ryan has studied the HPV vaccine and sexual behavior in young
women, but she was not involved in the current research.
She said her study, and others, have found that most girls come
away from the vaccination a bit savvier about their sexual
"Not only do these studies generally prove that they're not participating in any earlier or riskier sexual behavior, but they also might get a little education out of the whole process of being vaccinated. So they tend to be a little more knowledgeable about the virus and other sexually transmitted infections," Ryan said.
U.S. National Cancer Institutefor more on the HPV
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