College Students' Awareness of the Link Between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-Associated Cancers

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of cancer education


We describe the level of awareness of the link between HPV and HPV-associated cancers and identify demographic and lifestyle factors associated with awareness. This was a cross-sectional study of college students (n = 862) at a public Midwestern university conducted between February and May 2021. The outcomes were student's awareness-accessed by asking students if they knew whether HPV was causally link with anal, cervical, vaginal, oropharyngeal, vulvar, and penile cancers. Logistic regression models estimated the association between sociodemographic and sexual behavior and awareness of the link between HPV and HPV-associated cancers. Approximately 70% were aware that HPV causes cervical, 53% were aware HPV causes vaginal, 40% were aware HPV causes vulvar cancers, 39% were aware HPV causes oropharyngeal, 38% were aware HPV causes penile, and 34% were aware HPV causes anal cancers. In multivariable analyses, men were less likely to be aware that HPV causes vaginal (aOR = 0.42, 95% CI 0.30-0.59) or vulvar cancers (aOR = 0.54, 95% CI 0.38-0.77) compared to women. Compared with sexually naïve students, those who had have oral and vaginal sex were more likely to be aware that HPV causes anal (aOR = 1.98, 95% CI 1.17-3.34), penile (aOR = 1.82, 95% CI 1.11-2.97), vaginal (aOR = 1.81, 95% CI 1.14-2.88), or vulvar (aOR = 2.05, 95% CI 1.24-3.40) cancers. Awareness of the link between HPV and HPV-associated cancers was low, except cervical. This underscores the need for more tailored interventions to increase knowledge about HPV and its association with cancer. Increasing students' levels of awareness may impact HPV vaccine uptake.

PubMed ID



ePub ahead of print