The decision as to whether a young woman should receive the HPV inoculation can be influenced by their mother’s views and experiences with the vaccine.
This is according to new research from the University of Manchester, which used data from 117,000 girls to show that teenagers were at least three times more likely to have had the HPV vaccination if their mothers had been tested in the past five years.
The study, which will be published in the European Journal of Cancer, also showed daughters were more likely to have been vaccinated if their mothers received an abnormal result. Infection with the HPV virus can increase the risk of cervical cancer in women, and vaccination can help reduce rates of the disease.
The researchers linked cervical screening records and HPV vaccination records in the north-east of England by address as its primary data for the report; it is the first time such a link has been studied in the UK.
They found that the uptake of HPV vaccination among 12-13-year-olds in those whose mothers had never been screened for cervical cancer was 58 per cent.
In the same age group whose mothers had been screened for cervical cancer in the past five years, the uptake was almost 84 per cent.
Further analysis showed mothers who had personally decided to stop screening were less likely to have vaccinated their daughters than those who had stopped for medical reasons.
The researchers pointed out that there were “important public health implications” to the findings.
They said not only are teenagers of mothers not engaging with screening less likely to be vaccinated, but they are also less likely to engage with screening themselves when they get older, putting them at risk.
Research assistant Angela Spencer told the BBC the results suggest that a mother’s attitudes with respect to her own cervical screening attendance - or to preventive programmes in general - are important determinants in her decision to vaccinate her daughter, particularly at younger ages.
She said: “It shows there is a link within families and that targeting both mothers and daughters may have an influence on uptake of prevention programmes.”
Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said: “HPV vaccination and screening are the best ways of reducing the risk of cervical cancer.
“This study adds to our knowledge about the factors that affect vaccination behaviour, including the influence of family and friends.
“It’s important to ensure all women understand the importance of HPV vaccination and cervical screening and their role in saving lives.”
The two current vaccines available for HPV in the UK are GSK’s Cervarix and Sanofi Pasteur’s and MSD’s Gardasil.
In November 2011 the UK Government performed a U-turn on its HPV vaccine programme by favouring Gardasil over Cervarix, meaning the latter is no longer funded by the NHS.
A study from the Health Protection Agency in the same year found that Gardasil was more cost effective than Cervarix, as it can also protect against genital warts, and more types of the HPV virus.