Survey: College students not fully informed about human papillomavirus

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Only 15.5% of college students know that condoms don't fully protect a person from contacting the human papillomavirus, and this lack of knowledge can lead students to a false sense of security in their sexual practices, according to a new study in Radiologic Technology, a journal published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.

"As health care professionals working in the medical imaging and radiation therapy fields, we see the devastating effects of a cancer diagnosis every day," stated Megan Trad, the study's lead author and an assistant professor for the Texas State University radiation therapy program. "As we learn more about the causes of specific cancers and ways it can be prevented, it's our responsibility to pass that information on to others."

Study results found that most students know HPV is associated with cervical cancer, but fewer than 50% of students know that the virus also is associated with oropharyngeal, anal and penile cancers. According to the authors, "The lack of knowledge about other cancers associated with HPV is important, because those cancers are preventable with education, the use of vaccines and safer sexual practices. Without proper education, students may only be aware of the most commonly discussed correlation ­ that HPV is associated with cervical cancer and may be unaware of the other dangers the virus possesses.

"The results didn't surprise us as research shows a lack of knowledge about HPV among the general public," Trad said. In terms of students' level of understanding on where HPV sits on the hierarchy of sexually transmitted diseases, only 38.8% knew that the virus is the most common STD. In addition, only 13.7% understood that it generally subsided without presenting any health problems.


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