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Awareness of oral and genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in young adolescents prior to gender-neutral vaccination
  1. Gillian Knight1,
  2. Ben Roberts2
  1. 1School of Engineering and Applied Science, Aston University, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Human Sciences Research Centre, University of Derby, Derby, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gillian Knight, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK; g.knight{at}


Introduction Oral human papillomavirus (HPV) and oropharyngeal cancer prevalence are increasing, particularly in men. Raising greater awareness of male HPV disease is perceived as an important intervention strategy. This study investigated the effectiveness of HPV education on adolescents’ perception of HPV disease and the impact of HPV vaccination on their sexual health.

Methods An HPV questionnaire was completed by 357 UK-based adolescents, aged 12–13 years.

Results Most adolescents knew HPV causes cervical cancer and HPV vaccination prevents this. A minority acknowledged HPV causes other genital cancers, with under one-fifth knowing HPV causes genital warts. Adolescents’ awareness of HPV transmission activities were limited. There was very poor awareness of oral HPV infection or HPV-induced oropharyngeal cancer. Half of the participants stated HPV vaccination reduced their concerns about sexually transmitted infection contraction. Over half the males said they may take more sexual risks following vaccination, while a similar proportion of females did not expect their partner to take more risks.

Conclusions Adolescents had little awareness of male HPV infection and the role HPV vaccination can play in preventing these diseases. With variable rates of HPV vaccination uptake in males reported worldwide, this study indicates that in the UK greater emphasis on male HPV disease within educational information is required, to raise better awareness of how HPV affects both genders. As both genders preferred to receive education via healthcare professionals, educating a wider range of healthcare professionals on oral HPV could help facilitate awareness of HPV’s role in head and neck cancer.

  • education and training
  • health education
  • human papillomavirus
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • teenagers
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  • Contributors The lead author (GK) contributed to the content of this article by designing the HPV questionnaire and consent forms, obtaining ethical approval, and organising the recruitment of schools and the data collection within schools. She wrote the original draft of the introduction and discussion sections. The co-author (BR) undertook the data analysis of the questionnaire, which included the correct coding of the questionnaire for SPSS analysis, performing statistical analysis and presentation of the data. BR also wrote the original draft of the methodology section. GK and BR worked together to determine the key findings from the data analysis and then to write the original draft of the results section. They also worked together to revise the manuscript following peer review and to respond to the reviewers' comments. As part of the review requirements, the authors obtained contributions from and The Swallows Head & Neck Cancer Support charity in revising the original manuscript in accordance with the reviewers' comments. The Swallows Head & Neck Cancer Suppport charity required no amendments to the manuscript. suggested a few minor amendments, which were incorporated in the revised manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was granted ethical approval from the Life Sciences Ethics Committe, University of Derby. ID approval number: 16SW0079.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All results data relevant to the study are included in the article.A copy of the questionnaire can be obtained up to 1 year after publication upon request to the lead author (ORCID 0000-0001-5334-2491).

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