Girls from some ethnic minorities are less likely to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), putting them at higher risk of cervical cancer.
New research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute annual Cancer Conference in Liverpool showed that girls from ‘Black’ or ‘Other’ ethnic minority backgrounds were less likely to have been vaccinated than ‘White’ or ‘Asian’ girls.
Researchers from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London asked nearly 2,000 girls from 13 schools across London.
The study also found that unvaccinated girls would be less likely to attend screening or cervical cancer when invited as adults.
Dr Jo Waller, study author said: “Our study suggests that girls who don’t have the vaccine may be less likely to go for screening in the future, which leaves them at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
“We need to understand the reasons for ethnic inequalities in uptake, as well as working to ensure that unvaccinated women understand the importance of cervical screening.”
The HPV vaccine was introduced in the UK in 2008, with a national vaccination programme for girls in year eight (aged 12-13). To get the full protection, girls need to receive three doses of the vaccine within six months.
Almost five million women each year in England are invited for cervical screening, which looks for precancerous changes in the cells lining the cervix. These tests are routinely offered to women in England between the ages of 25 and 64.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “This study reveals there are groups of girls who are not getting vaccinated and, as a result, are at an increased risk of cervical cancer. This needs to change to ensure as many girls as possible are protected.”