Public awareness of the association between human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer

Femke Verhees*, Imke Demers, Leo J Schouten, Matt Lechner, Ernst-Jan M Speel, Bernd Kremer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: Early diagnosis of human papillomavirus (HPV) associated oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) is associated with improved survival. To achieve early diagnosis, it might be beneficial to increase awareness of the link between HPV and OPC. This increase of awareness could also be an important way to increase vaccination rates. The aim of our study was to explore the current public knowledge in the Netherlands regarding the association of HPV with OPC.

METHODS: An online cross-sectional survey was used and sent by the company Flycatcher Internet Research to 1539 of their panel members. Data were analyzed statistically by gender, age, educational level and the participants' use of alcohol and tobacco.

RESULTS: The response rate was 68% (1044 participants). Our data revealed that 30.6% of the participants had heard of HPV. There was a knowledge gap regarding HPV in males (P < 0.001), people older than 65 years (P < 0.001), people with low education level (P < 0.001) and current smokers (P < 0.001). Of the respondents who had heard of HPV, only 29.2% knew of the association between HPV and OPC. We also found that only 49.7% of the population knew of the existence of an HPV vaccine.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this survey indicate that the public awareness of HPV and the association of HPV with OPC is lacking. Interventions to increase awareness of HPV and its association with non-cervical cancer should be considered. This might help to increase the HPV vaccine uptake both for girls and boys and earlier diagnosis of this disease leading to improved survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1025
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021


  • Alphapapillomavirus
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Netherlands/epidemiology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms/epidemiology
  • Papillomaviridae
  • HEAD
  • HPV

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