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HPV in Communities of Color

Mother hugging sonGet the shot or get the screening to prevent HPV cancer in your community.

HPV Does Not Discriminate

HPV (human papillomavirus) is so common that almost everyone who becomes sexually active gets it at some point in their lives. Everyone is at risk of getting HPV and the cancers caused by the virus, which is why vaccination and screenings are so important. There are various factors that have increased the risk of HPV cancers in communities of color. Health disparity factors including socioeconomic status (SES) and limited access to healthcare services1 have made it hard for minorities to overcome the burden of cancer.

Increasing vaccination, early cancer detection, promoting healthy lifestyles, and expanding access to health care help reduce inequalities in cancer including HPV cancers among groups at greatest risk.

Chart: Cervical Cancer Incident Rates by Race and Ethnicity, U.S., 1999-2011

Incidence source: Combined data from the National Program of Cancer Registries as submitted to CDC and from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program as submitted to the National Cancer Institute in November 2013.

Mortality source: U.S. Mortality Files, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC.

These numbers can be avoided in communities of color, especially since most HPV infections that cause these cancers can be prevented. Prevention methods such as vaccination and screenings are critical to reducing the cancer risks in minorities. As many as 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented by HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening.7

HPV Cancers in Communities of Color

HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and oropharynx (mouth/throat). The most common HPV cancer in women is cancer of the cervix. Although cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women, Black women tend to live 5 years less and die more often than any other race diagnosed with cervical cancer.2

Every year, there are over 9,300 HPV cancers diagnosed in men. Men have higher rates of mouth/throat cancer caused by HPV than women. Mouth/throat cancer is most common among White and Black men and women, and less common among Asian and Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native men and women. For HPV penile cancer, Hispanic men have higher rates of the disease than non-Hispanic men.

How HPV Cancers Affect Women of Color

Every year, HPV cancers affect around 17,600 women. HPV cancers affect women of color more often than White, non-Hispanic women. About 4,000 women annually die from cervical cancer, with three times more Black women dying than White women in the same age group.3 This disease is preventable, so no women should die of cervical cancer, however the numbers are disturbing.

  • Women of color are diagnosed with cervical cancer at a later stage than White women; only 48% of Black women are diagnosed at an early stage of invasive cervical cancer, compared to 56% of White women.4
  • Black women are more likely to die from cervical cancer than women of other races or ethnicities.5,6
  • Black women also have higher rates of vaginal cancer caused by HPV.
  • Hispanic women have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the United States. For every 100,000 women living in the U.S., about 11 Hispanic women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, compared to only seven non-Hispanic women.
  • Cervical cancer incidence rates are five times higher among Vietnamese American women than White women.

Preventing HPV Cancers

It's true! You can prevent cancer. HPV vaccination can prevent the HPV infections that most commonly cause these cancers. HPV vaccine can decrease HPV cancer rates and help to improve the health of both men and women in communities of color across the country. CDC recommends that all preteens (age 11 or 12 years old) get three doses of HPV vaccine before age 13 to protect against cervical, anal cancer and genital warts. In addition to the vaccine, screening programs for cervical cancer are also critical in reducing the burden of this disease. In 2012, 8 million US women ages 21 to 65 reported they had not been screened for cervical cancer in the last 5 years, which means many women are at risk of not catching this disease before it spreads.

Screening programs only exist for cervical cancer. There are no screening programs for other HPV cancers, making the HPV vaccine even more important for prevention of HPV cancers.

Graphic: HPV Types Included in Vaccine

The 9-valent HPV vaccine protects from more types of HPV, however all HPV vaccines protect against types 16 and 18, which causes most of HPV cancers.

9-valent HPV Vaccine Offers More Protection

Recently CDC recommended a third HPV vaccine; this vaccine can protect against five additional HPV types that can lead to cervical precancer and cancer.8 Similar to the first two HPV vaccines (bivalent and quadrivalent vaccine) the 9-valent HPV vaccine protects against HPV types 16 and 18, which are the types that cause most HPV cancer. In the United States, HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 6 out of 10 invasive HPV cancers. The 9-valent HPV vaccine also protects against five additional types: HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Ten percent, or one in ten, of invasive HPV cancer cases are caused by one of the five additional types now included in 9-valent HPV vaccine.

What You Can Do

You can help prevent HPV cancers by getting your child vaccinated and encouraging women in your community to be screened for cervical cancer (Pap testing). If your preteen hasn't started or finished the HPV vaccine series, call your child's doctor or nurse to make an appointment to get the first shot. If you have a teen who is not yet vaccinated, it's not too late, they can still receive the vaccine too. Remember that every time your child has a visit to see the doctor or nurse is an opportunity to discuss HPV cancer prevention.

Educate yourself, your family, and your community on HPV and HPV vaccine. Get the shot or get the screening to prevent the spread of HPV cancers in your community! Visit CDC's website to learn more.


  1. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control: Factors That Contribute to Health Disparities in Cancer
  2. McCarthy, Anne Marie et al. "Racial/ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities in Mortality among Women Diagnosed with Cervical Cancer in New York City, 1995–2006." Cancer causes & control: CCC 21.10 (2010): 1645–1655. PMC.
  3. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2011 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report.
  4. Freeman HP, Wingrove BK. Excess Cervical Cancer Mortality: A Marker for Low Access to Health Care in Poor Communities. Rockville, MD: National Cancer Institute, Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, May 2005. NIH Pub. No. 05-5282.
  5. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2011 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report.
  6. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Health, United States, 2002, Table 30.
  7. CDC Vital Signs. "Cervical Cancer is Preventable." November 2014 [1.5 MB].
  8. Use of 9-Valent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine: Updated HPV Vaccination Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices MMWR Rep 2015;64: 300-304.