Cancer Trends 39 - HPV Associated Cancers

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The latest trends report on HPV-associated cancers estimates that there are 641 cases of new human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated cancers diagnosed and 196 cancer deaths per year in Ireland, most of which are potentially preventable by HPV vaccination.

The report sheds light on the changing landscape of HPV-associated cancers, highlighting both the progress to date and the challenges that lie ahead.  HPV is a group of viruses known to infect the genital area, as well as the mouth and the throat. HPV is now well-established as an important risk factor for cervical, vaginal, vulval, penile and anorectal cancers, as well as head and neck cancers. Almost all sexually active people develop HPV infections, and about half of these infections are with a high-risk HPV-type virus. These high-risk HPV infections are estimated to cause about 5% of all cancers worldwide.

Key findings:

  • HPV-associated cancers account for almost 3% of all invasive cancers excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) in Ireland, but account for 7% of such cancers in young adults aged 20-49 years.
  • The age standardised incidence rate for HPV-associated cancers, apart from cervical cancer, is increasing.
  • The age-standardised incidence rate for cervical cancer has been decreasing since 2010, following the introduction of a population-based screening programme in 2008.
  • Survival for most HPV-associated cancers has increased. Head and neck and anorectal cancer survival rates have improved more than penile or vulval survival rates.
  • The stage at diagnosis varies by cancer site, with most cervical, vulval, and penile cancers being diagnosed early (at stage I or II), whereas the majority of head and neck cancers are diagnosed late (at stage III or IV). 

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