Friday, May 19, 2006


This article is good news but it makes me a little angry.

The title: Panel urges U.S. to OK cervical cancer vaccine
Shots against common STD could be recommended for girls as young as 9

Ugh! This vaccine is not a cancer vaccine. This vaccine protects against 2 types of Human Papillomavirus(HPV) that, studies have shown, lead to cervical cancer and also 2 types of HPV that cause genital warts. I guess there are plenty of educated people who know that the definition of vaccine is (at least according to "preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen, such as a bacterium or virus, or of a portion of the pathogen's structure that upon administration stimulates antibody production or cellular immunity against the pathogen but is incapable of causing severe infection." But I'm guessing, when the common folk read this title, they think, "Gee, this will prevent or even cure cancer."

I think that the article does contain some good facts about HPV, but it doesn't quite explain everything. The Q&A part of the article is very misleading especially if you only click on one of the questions. The introduction question states that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause warts on your genitals, feet, and hands. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause warts on your genitals. However, the papillomavirus that causes warts on your hands is not generally sexually transmitted.

The article lists some scary statistics, but I don't think it does a good enough job of explaining that not everyone with HPV has genital warts, and that the disease can be silent and a person may never know they have it. The kind of HPV that causes cervical cancer can just cause subtle changes in the cells of the cervix. I think that any publicity on the disease at all should stress the importance of getting regular pap smears. The scariest thing about HPV is that even if you practice safe sex, you are still at risk, because it has not been proven whether or not condoms are effective against the virus. This statistic is really scary.
"At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV at some point in their lives. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV. An estimated 9.2 million sexually active teens and young adults have genital HPV."
9.2 million. Wow.

This morning, on the Today show, Katie Couric said the exact same thing that this "cancer vaccine" was coming out. I had to leave for work so I didn't get to see the segment, but I wonder if Katie did a good job of letting people know what HPV is really about. In my Pathophysiology class, I did my research paper on HPV and cervical cancer, so I happen to know a lot about the subject matter at hand. I think the risk of getting any STD is scary, but this is one people don't necessairly think about, but it should be on the list of "big ones".

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