Clinical Dialogue: HPV and Cancer: Understanding Viral Infection and Cancer Prevention

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and carries risk of several cancers, including cervical, oropharyngeal, and head and neck. Research has already shown a significant impact of the HPV vaccine in the young adult population. Newly expanded indications hope to increase the vaccine’s usefulness to further decreasing rates of head and neck and oropharyngeal cancers. Despite the prevalence of HPV and associated cancers, and the existence of a safe and effective vaccine, uptake of the vaccine in the U.S. has not been robust. This lack of uptake is especially true for males. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of routine publicly funded vaccinations in the U.S., including HPV vaccinations, have drastically decreased compared with 2019. Overall, healthcare providers play a key role in improving HPV vaccination rates. Data shows that healthcare provider recommendations can increase HPV vaccination series initiation and completion. Unfortunately, healthcare provider knowledge of HPV is still inadequate, and it is uncertain how effective current educational resources for providers are. As such, these providers require an educational program that broadly encompasses the key HPV learning points, so they will be able to properly counsel patients and their families.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, the PA should be better able to: 

  • Outline the burden of disease associated with HPV infection
  • Explain the link between virus serotypes and how different types of cancer may develop (e.g., cervical, anal, head and neck)
  • State the latest efficacy and safety data of HPV vaccination
  • Identify and implement strategies to increase vaccination in clinical practice
  • Implement strategies to address vaccine prioritizations in the environment of the COVID pandemic

Acknowledgement of Commercial Support


Supported by an independent educational grant from Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp.