More than half of people think HPV is a lot rarer than it is
Less than half don't know it can cause cancer.
New research shows that around seven in 10 people don't fully understand what HPV is and more than half of people think it is a rare disease in Ireland.
According to research by Behaviour and Attitudes on behalf of MSD Ireland, 53% of people believe that HPV is rare despite the majority of people getting it at some point in their lives.
A similar survey was done in 2018 where 87% of people said it was unlikely or impossible they have had or ever had HPV, in 2021 this figure stands at 78%.
Only one in five, 22%, people are aware that they will more than likely contract HPV in their lifetime, or know that they have already.
On top of this, just under half of the people surveyed were not aware HPV could cause cancer, with 42% of people not knowing the connection.
While the figure is improving, education into the topic needs to be carried out further, with the WHO launching a global initiative aimed at eliminating cervical cancer by 2030 by focussing on prevention through HPV vaccination and screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions.
Speaking about the new findings, Rachel Morrogh, Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy, said: "It highlights that there is no room for complacency when it comes to people’s understanding of HPV and the cancers it can cause. Through amazing scientific breakthroughs and research, we are incredibly fortunate to have a vaccine that can prevent many HPV-related cancers and this is available, free of charge, to first year girls and boys each September.
"The Irish Cancer Society encourages all eligible boys and girls, and their families to become familiar with what HPV is, the cancers HPV can cause, the benefits of this vaccination and to seek out trusted information sources ahead of the vaccination roll-out in schools this month.
"We have it within our grasp to save more than 130 lives each year in Ireland. High vaccination rates is one essential aspect of eliminating HPV-related cancers and we must continue to work together and commit to a detailed roadmap that accelerates progress in eliminating these cancers in Ireland. With a target-based plan, Ireland can lead like other countries across the world in eliminating HPV-related cancers and diseases."
HPV infections have caused up to 420 cancer cases in Ireland from 2010 to 2014, with around 130 people dying from HPV related cancers.
And with more than 100 different types of HPV, most carry no symptoms and go away naturally, but if it doesn't, it can be a huge concern in both men and women.