Nearly 80 million Americans — one out of every four people — are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). And of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent the infections that cause these cancers, HPV vaccination remains low in the United States.
Cancer usually begins in one location and then spreads, but in 3-5% of cancer patients, the tissue where a cancer began is unknown. In these individuals a cancer diagnosis is made because it has metastasized to other sites. Patients with these so-called “cancers of unknown primary,” or CUP, have a very poor prognosis, with a median survival of three months. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology finds that family members of CUP patients are at higher risk of developing CUP themselves, as well as cancers of the lung, pancreas, colon, and some cancers of the blood.