You Could be One Vaccination Away from Preventing Cancer
The Hepatitis B vaccine prevents cancer. Take action.
A guest post by Carolyn Aldigé, President and Founder, Prevent Cancer Foundation
Parents want the best for their children and will do much to ensure that they live happy and healthy lives. However, statistics show that parents are missing the opportunity to protect their children against cancer. This is why the “State of the ImmUnion” effort led by Every Child by Two is so important. The rates for vaccination against the hepatitis B virus in children need improvement, and the hepatitis B vaccine not only offers protection against the virus, but also, ultimately, prevents cancer.
Unfortunately, not enough people are aware of the connection between hepatitis B and liver cancer. In an effort to help save lives, the Prevent Cancer Foundation launched Think About the Link, an education campaign to raise awareness of the link between certain viruses and cancer, including hepatitis B and liver cancer, and how to prevent them.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.
Approximately 700,000 to 1.4 million people in this country have a chronic hepatitis B virus infection. A transfer of the virus can occur from mother to child during birth. Transmission also can occur through bodily fluids from a person who has the virus; sexual contact; or through sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Over time, the virus can lead to serious liver conditions, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Liver cancer kills approximately 16,000 men and 7,000 women in the U.S. each year. Unfortunately, the numbers continue to rise each year. However, through vaccination against the hepatitis B virus, the disease can be prevented.
Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended schedule for the hepatitis B vaccine to offer your child the greatest protection, since nearly 90 percent of infants who contract hepatitis B remain chronically infected, while only two to six percent of adults do.
The CDC recommends all children receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth and complete the three-to-four dose series between six and 18 months of age. Currently, only 72 percent of babies receive their first dose at birth. We believe this percentage is not higher because parents are unaware the vaccine also prevents liver cancer.
According to a survey conducted by the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 67 percent of adults are unaware the hepatitis B vaccine can reduce the risk of liver cancer. Additionally, we found that only 27 percent of physicians and other health care providers use cancer prevention as a compliance strategy for this vaccine.
We can help more people think about the link between viruses and cancer.
If you are a health care provider, be sure to discuss the hepatitis B vaccine as a cancer prevention strategy with parents and other adults. If you are a parent whose child has not been vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus, make an appointment to talk with your doctor today.
Also, if you are an adult who has not received the hepatitis B vaccine, which became available in 1982, make an appointment with your health care provider to be screened and/or vaccinated. It is not too late. There are cancers that science has not yet discovered how to prevent; however, there are several types of the disease that we can avoid. Vaccinating against the hepatitis B virus is a proven method to prevent liver cancer.