Air Force Servicewomen Most Protected From Preventable Cancers

Gardasil 9 HPV vaccination is optional for military personnel
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(Precision Vaccinations)

A recent study found Air Force servicewomen led all military branches in the initiation and adherence of the cancer-prevention, Gardasil 9 Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.   

Overall, this study published in June 2019, found 37.8 percent of servicewomen initiated the HPV vaccination and 40.2 percent of initiators completed the 3-dose vaccination services within 1 year. 

Among servicemen included in this study, only 3.9 percent initiated the HPV vaccine series and 23.1 percent of initiators were adherent. 

Compared to their respective military counterparts, members of the Air Force and those in healthcare occupations had higher percentages of HPV vaccination initiation and adherence. 

Currently, the HPV vaccine is not a mandatory vaccine for U.S. military service, however, it is encouraged and offered to all service members.   

The U.S. Millennium Cohort Study is a population-based prospective study that includes over 200,000 current and prior U.S. military service members. The cohort includes 4 panels of participants, the first of which were enrolled in 2001; subsequent panels were enrolled in 2004, 2007, and 2011. 

This HPV vaccination analysis was restricted to active component members under age 26 in 2006 (women) or 2009 (men). 

Medical encounter and central immunization databases were used to identify those who had received the HPV vaccine series through June 2017. The analysis sample included 22,387 female and 31,705 male Millennium Cohort Study participants.   

As such, the Millennium Cohort Study is uniquely positioned to leverage both administrative and self-reported data to better understand the effects of military service on the health of its members. 

HPV vaccines have been available and licensed for use in the U.S. among women since 2006 and among men since 2010. HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use. 

Merck's Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine is currently available in the USA.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is a leading etiology for cancer.   

There are 2 categories of HPVs -- low-risk HPVs, which do not cause cancer, and high-risk HPVs, which can cause cancer. The HPV high-risk causes genital warts and several types of HPV cancers, including cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Authors included: Rayna K. Matsuno, Ph.D., MPH; Ben Porter, Ph.D.; Steven Warner, MPH; Natalie Wells, MD, MPH (CDR, USN) for the Millennium Cohort Study Team.

Author affiliations: Deployment Health Research Department in the Military Population Health Directorate, Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, CA (Dr. Matsuno, Dr. Porter, Mr. Warner, CDR Wells); Leidos, Inc., San Diego, CA (Dr. Matsuno, Dr. Porter, Mr. Warner)

Disclaimer: The authors are military service members or employees of the U.S. Government or contract employees of the Government. This work was prepared as part of their official duties.

This work was supported by the Military Operational Medicine Research Program under work unit no. 60002. The study protocol was approved by the Naval Health Research Center Institutional Review Board in compliance with all applicable Federal regulations governing the protection of human subjects. Research data were derived from an approved Naval Health Research Center, Institutional Review Board protocol number NHRC.2000.0007.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report vaccine side effects to the CDC.