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HPV Cancer Link Largely Unknown in US

Update Date: Jun 05, 2014 07:25 PM EDT

More Americans should know about head and neck cancers. New research reveals that public awareness of head and neck cancers are very low, and few people know about how tobacco increases the risk of human papillomavirus (HPV).

Lead researcher Alexander L. Luryi, B.S., of the Yale University School of Medicine, said that findings are important because head and neck cancers are the tenth most common cancer in the United States. Head and neck cancers are also potentially preventable, as 75 percent of cases have been linked to tobacco use.

As the human papillomavirus has recently been found to increase the risk of head and neck cancers, researchers believe that boosting public awareness of head and neck cancers could help lower cancer rates.

The 2013 study, which involved 2,126 adults, revealed that 66 percent of participants were "not very" or "not at all" knowledgeable about head and neck cancers.

While 54.5 percent of participants identified smoking and 32.7 percent identified chewing or spitting tobacco as risk factors for mouth and throat cancer, only 0.8 percent of participants identified human papillomavirus as a risk factor.

"Awareness of HNC is low compared with other cancers, which is concerning given the importance of risk factor avoidance and modification, as well as early patient detection, as drivers of prevention and improved outcomes," researchers wrote in the study.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology- Head Neck Surgery.

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