Study shows focusing on STD prevention with HPV vaccine more persuasive

A study released on Thursday led by Janice Krieger of Ohio State and Melanie Sarge of Texas Tech shows that emphasizing the STD prevention over the cancer prevention benefits of the HPV vaccine is more persuading to young women.

The results of the study were surprising, as common thought was the best way of convincing young women to get the vaccine was to scare them with the possibility of cancer. Fewer than 20 percent of adolescent girls in the United States receive the HPV vaccine.

"Young women don't respond strongly to the threat of cervical cancer," Krieger said. "They seem to be more worried about getting an STD. That's the way we should try to encourage them to get the HPV vaccine."

The HPV vaccine prevents against different types of the HPV virus that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.

Previous studies focused on a wide range of women in all age groups and reported that the cancer preventing message worked. These studies, however, were ineffective because the vaccine is targeted for women who are under age 26.

"Cancer is something people start to worry about later in life, not when they're in high school and college," Krieger said. "We decided to do a clean study that compared what message worked best with college-aged women versus what worked with their mothers."