A video tweeted by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative political organization, highlights a UCLA study of advanced cancers in women to make the false claim that HPV vaccines are ineffective at reducing HPV-related cancers.
In the video published by the organization’s Twitter account on October 31, Dr. Peterson Pierre, who is identified as an “AFLD Doctor,” said that because a University of California, Los Angeles study shows an increase in advanced cervical cancer cases, it suggests that the HPV vaccine doesn’t work (here).
“The number of HPV-related cancers has not decreased even though the vaccine has been widely adopted by men and women,” Pierre said in the video. “If the HPV vaccine does not decrease cancer, as we’ve been led to believe, then the CDC and the health officials have been lying to us all along.”
The lead author of the UCLA study, Dr. Alex Andrea Francoeur, told Reuters by email that the database used in their study for HPV vaccination and pap screening is different from the database used for cancer incidence data, so no correlation can be drawn between HPV vaccination and cancer incidence (ijgc.bmj.com/content/32/9/1115).
Francoeur said the study, first published in August 2022, looked only at stage-four cervical cancer, but the overall rates of cervical cancer among U.S. women are decreasing.
Francoeur and colleagues examined rates of new diagnoses of advanced cervical cancer – cancers that have spread to the bladder or rectum — between 2001 and 2018. They found the rates of these advanced cancers rose between about 1% and 3% per year during that period, and that while Black women had the highest overall rates at 1.55/100,000 compared with 0.92/100,000 among white women, white women in their early 40s had the greatest increase at 4.5% per year.
Compared with Black women, the study also found that white women were twice as likely to not receive guideline cervical cancer screening, which might be one reason their cancers are being detected at a later stage, the authors noted.
Francoeur told Reuters that a separate recent study by her research group found “the younger age group who were eligible for the HPV vaccine when it was released has had a significant drop in the rates of cervical cancer” (here).
Another study, of more than 1.6 million girls and women in Sweden, also linked HPV vaccination to lower rates of cervical cancer (here).
“Cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination is essential to prevent later stage of presentation of cervical cancer,” Francoeur said. “Some of the reasons we may be seeing increases in white women may be due to lower rates of guideline-based screening and vaccination.”
CDC data also shows that cervical cancer rates continue to drop among younger women, who were eligible for the HPV vaccine when it became available (here). The National Cancer Institute’s report for 2014-2018 found that cervical cancer was the 13th most common cancer among women overall in the United States, and its incidence was stable during that period, while cervical cancer deaths fell by nearly 1% (here)
False. A UCLA study of advanced cervical cancer rates among U.S. women does not reflect trends in overall rates of cervical cancer, and its authors say that no correlation can be made between HPV vaccination and the increase in late-stage cancers analyzed in their study.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.