- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Officials at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center have joined the leaders of other top cancer centers to urge more widespread use of the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine.

Dr. Warner Huh, director of the UAB Division of Gynecologic Oncology said that only about 40 percent of 11 and 12-year-olds in the United States receive all three doses of the vaccine, which can prevent 90 percent of cervical cancers, Al.com (https://bit.ly/1PjDNHU) reported.

In Australia, where the vaccine is mandatory and used by more than 75 percent of preteens, doctors have observed a huge drop in abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer cases, Huh said.

The human pappilomavirus, or HPV, causes about 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. The virus also causes genital warts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, in 2006. A 2014 version of the vaccine protects against even more strains of the virus.

Huh said the campaign is aimed at parents and doctors. Pediatricians are responsible for advising most families about the vaccine, Huh said.

“Most pediatricians will never see a case of cervical cancer,” he said. “So there’s a bit of a disconnect.”

The number of HPV-related cancers in the United States translates to a new diagnosis every 20 minutes, according to a coalition of cancer centers news release.

Huh said some parents may have heard alarming reports about suspected side effects, but stressed that the vaccine is safe. He has been involved in the research and development of HPV vaccines.

“I will tell you with great confidence that this is the most scrutinized vaccine, and one of the safest vaccines developed,” Huh said.

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