Which social representations about cancer related to HPV infection and HPV vaccine from teenagers?


  • C. Bauquier
  • M. Préau


In the French context of low respected guidelines on HPV immunization, this study aims to investigate youths’ representations about this vaccine. Theory of social representations (Moscovici, 2013) constitutes a relevant approach, allowing researchers to explore both processes of passing on knowledge and the content of this knowledge (Jodelet, 2015). It is through a mixed methods approach (Belaid et al., 2016) that several tools were created. Thus, interventions based on a participatory action have been set up with middle school students. Groups of 3-4 students were asked to create posters illustrating the theme of cancer related to HPV infection and the associate vaccine. Focus groups and a questionnaire survey were conducted, both exploring cancer and HPV prevention. Four schools have been chosen because of their location, based on the idea that they would provide informations related to the impact of socio-economic factors on the anchoring of representations about HPV vaccine. A triangulated analysis of the data (Flick, 2004) was carried. Our study highlights that, despite a lot of therapeutic advances, cancer is still perceived as extremely serious, causing much suffering and often having a fatal outcome. The link with sexuality (contraception, STIs, HIV/AIDS…) appears almost systematically when cervical cancer is mentioned, although HPV infection is rarely known by students. Based on these results, we believe that times dedicated to sexual health education at school, based on the lay knowledge of adolescents about the HPV vaccine and the cancers related to infection, are relevant to address the topic of cervical cancer prevention.





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