Awareness Levels of the Link Between Oropharyngeal Cancer and HPV Infection Among Spanish Women: a Hospital-Based Cross-sectional Study


Several observational studies have demonstrated the increased awareness of human papillomavirus (HPV) as an etiological factor of oropharyngeal cancers (OPCs). The incidence of OPCs has increased in recent times, particularly among younger women, and the efficacy of the HPV vaccine in preventing these cancers has gained attention among the medical community. The aim of this study was to explore the health literacy of Spanish adult women regarding factors associated with HPV and its link to OPCs, as well as their awareness of the HPV vaccination. A survey was distributed to 508 women, and 409 (70.5%) were considered as valid participants. The majority of the participants were Caucasian (97.8%) with a mean age of 44.1 ± 11.6. Out of all the participants, only 48.9% women identified HPV as a possible etiology of OPC. The most common sources of information regarding this association were the internet (31.3%), video media (28.9%), and healthcare professionals (28.9%), whereas 16.1% of the participants reported that they had obtained information from three or more sources. The average number of correct answers in the 16-item survey which was used to determine the participants’ knowledge of HPV-related diseases was 8.7 ± 4.2, and the average number of correct answers in the 6-item survey regarding the usefulness of the HPV vaccination was 3.3 ± 1.6. According to bivariate models, the variables associated with a poorer level of awareness were related mainly to education (p < 0.001), sexual behavior (p < 0.001), and employment status (p < 0.001). This study contributes toward the discovery of the previously unforeseen psychosocial burden of HPV and its related diseases among Spanish women.

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The authors thank the research assistants who assisted in data collection for this study.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alejandro I. Lorenzo-Pouso.

Ethics declarations

The study project was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Servizo Galego de Saude (the Galician Health Service) (ID: 2018/461), and it was conducted as a hospital-based cross-sectional survey during 2018/2019.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Lorenzo-Pouso, A.I., Mariño-Méndez, H., Varela-Ponte, C. et al. Awareness Levels of the Link Between Oropharyngeal Cancer and HPV Infection Among Spanish Women: a Hospital-Based Cross-sectional Study. J Canc Educ (2020).

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  • HPV
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Health literacy
  • Vaccine
  • Patient education