The purpose of this study was to assess knowledge of human papillomavirus (HPV) as a cause of anal cancer among at-risk gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM).
Materials and Methods
Secondary analysis was conducted of cross-sectional data from 3 cycles of the Health Information National Trends Survey (2017, 2018, 2019). Results were reported for the subset of adults who identified as GBM (N = 212). Knowledge that HPV can cause anal cancer was the main outcome. Differences in knowledge were evaluated (using χ2 and multiple logistic regression) by demographic, health information factors, and access to care.
Sixty-eight percent of GBM were aware of HPV. Knowledge that HPV causes anal cancer was low (<20%) in the overall sample and sample of GBM (17.9%; 95% CI = 11.0–24.7). Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men were no more knowledgeable that HPV causes anal cancer than heterosexual men (14.8%; 95% CI = 12.9–16.9; p = .376). College-educated GBM had higher odds (adjusted odds ratio = 3.50; 95% CI = 1.02–11.97) of knowing HPV causes anal cancer than GBM with no college degree. No other factors were associated with knowledge.
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are largely unaware that HPV can cause anal cancer, despite high awareness of HPV itself. This is concerning given that GBM are at increased risk of HPV-associated anal cancer than the general population. Our findings suggest that information about anal cancer and health information about the benefits of HPV vaccination for anal cancer prevention are only reaching a small subset of college-educated GBM. Targeted anal cancer education programs are needed.