Learning From Your Daughters About Cancer Prevention

A study in The European Journal of Public Health finds conversation on preventive vaccination against HPV can motivate participation in preventive screening for cervical cancer.

A vaccination program for young girls in the United Kingdom, aimed at preventing cervical cancer, increased participation in cervical cancer screening by their mothers.

The program, introduced in the United Kingdom in 2008, provides routine vaccination for girls between 12 and 13 years of age. Families can make an informed decision to participate, being provided with necessary information on cervical cancer, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and the preventive role of the vaccine.

This large study examined return to cervical screening among 112,451 under-screened mothers in North West England whose daughters had been offered the vaccine at school during 2 academic years between 2008 and 2010. The results were compared with women who did not have vaccine-eligible daughters. Study author Loretta Brabin, PhD, explained, “Potentially, a lack of knowledge or understanding about the causes and risk of cervical cancer could prevent women from attending screening. We wanted to see if a daughter’s involvement in HPV vaccination stimulated her mother’s cervical screening attendance.”

The study found that mothers whose daughters had the option to be vaccinated, did get screened for the cancer more often than the comparator cohort (odds ratio (OR), 1.04; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.02-1.07) for lapsed and OR, 1.57 (CI, 1.48-1.67) for mothers who were never screened. Further, the authors write that screening return was significantly higher in the year prior to HPV vaccination for lapsed mothers (OR, 1.06) and in the current vaccination year for lapsed (OR, 1.05) and never screened mothers (OR, 1.16).

The motivation for this dramatic change in attitude towards screening? The active discussions between mothers and their daughters on the importance of preventive vaccination. “Mothers told us that they often still have reservations about screening but discussing vaccination and screening with their daughters encouraged some to set an example by returning to the screening program,” said lead author Angela, Spencer.