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Posts Tagged ‘Human Papillomavirus’

Vaccines Can Not Only Prevent Cancer, But May Soon Be Able to Cure It

April 6, 2016 28 comments

HPV112315HPV is such a common virus that nearly all sexually active individuals will contract the virus at some point in their lives.

It’s estimated that 79 million people (about 1 in 4) are currently infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) and about 14 million people become newly infected each year in the U.S. alone.  Yet, there is no cure for HPV and in some cases the virus will develop into cancer years, or even decades, after initial exposure. This results in about 270,000 people who are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers in the U.S. each year to include cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus or throat.

While the CDC currently recommends that parents get their sons and daughters the HPV vaccine series between the ages of 11-12 to prevent future cases of HPV and HPV-related cancers, the reality is that many people are already infected and are spreading the virus to others.

Good News For Those Already Infected

Mayumi Nakagawa, M.D., Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is researching a new vaccine that is designed to cure HPV, cause pre-cancerous lesions to disappear, and provide future protection against HPV. Following the success of the vaccine’s phase I trials, Dr. Nakagawa is now continuing with stage II trials with the support of a $3.5 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over the next five years. Read more…

On World Cancer Day Remember Vaccines Help Prevent Certain Cancers

February 4, 2016 2 comments

Yes, it’s World Cancer Day, but did you know that vaccines are currently helping to prevent and treat various types of cancer?

See, some cancers are caused by viruses and right now there  two commonly recommended vaccines (HepB and HPV) that target the very viruses that cause certain cancers.  We call these preventive cancer vaccines and they are a first-line defense against many cancers.  

Hepatitis B (HepB) Vaccine:

HepB112315The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a leading cause of liver cancer.   People who have chronic (long-term) HBV infections are at higher risk for liver cancer.  Unfortunately, that’s about 1 in 20 people (or about 350 million individuals). In fact, the virus is believed to be responsible for 600,000 deaths worldwide each year.  That means every 50 seconds someone dies from this vaccine-preventable disease.  

The likelihood that a hepatitis B infection will become chronic depends upon the age at which a person becomes infected.  Statistics show that 80–90% of infants who are infected during the first year of life, go on to develop chronic infections which is why infants are recommended to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth.

Experts agree that the 3-shot HepB vaccine can provide lifelong protection against HBV and helping to prevent the most common cause of liver cancer.  The vaccine is not only proven safe, but is believed to be 95% effective at preventing HBV infection.  Furthermore, the vaccination series can be started at any age and does not require any boosters.  In fact, the vaccine is so effective at preventing HBV and liver cancer that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it the world’s first “anti-cancer  vaccine”.

To learn more about why it is so important for infants to get a birth dose of HepB vaccine, check out another Shot of Prevention blog, “Why Infants Should Receive the Hepatitis B Vaccine at Birth” here.  

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine:

HPV112315Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and is often referred to as the common cold of the genitals.  About 1 in 4 Americans are currently infected (that’s about 80 million Americans), roughly 14 million people become newly infected each year, and about half of these new infections will be among people ages 15-24.

HPV infections are not only highly prevalent, but they can also result in cancerous cells that can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus or oropharynx (which includes the head, neck, throat, mouth, tongue and tonsils). Read more…

HPV Epidemic – Someone You Love Film – Watch It, Share It!

July 16, 2015 1 comment
Every Child By Two is pleased to welcome Linn to our social media team. Linn is a student intern who will be sharing her perspectives on vaccines with us through the eyes of a PhD candidate.  We hope you enjoy her first piece of the summer.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys ages 11-12.

This vaccine has the potential to prevent 70% of all cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Why then is there such a low rate of vaccine uptake?

Only about 1/3 of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated and less than 14% of boys are fully vaccinated.

One study looked to identify the barriers to uptake of HPV vaccine and found that it was not the lack of perceived risk or vaccine safety that kept parents from vaccinating their children, but the perception that it would increase risky sexual behavior in adolescents even though there is no evidence that this will occur.HPV

As a young student, I remember learning about the HPV vaccine in high school. HPV was a sexually transmitted disease that was relatively unknown, but we learned that the vaccine would prevent certain cancers and genital warts. The knowledge that I gained about the ability for this vaccine to prevent these potential diseases prompted me to learn more about the HPV vaccine and increased my desire to receive it.

However, when I discussed it with my mother, an interesting process began to occur. She did not know any information about the HPV vaccine and when I spoke to her about the fact that it prevents a sexually transmitted disease, I could see a shift in her gaze as she narrowed her eyes. I sensed that she was hesitant because of the social stigma that surrounded a female who would get a vaccine that was related to sexual contact.

All of these opinions are related to a negative stigma around sexual behaviors that are not true.  And yet these are the thoughts I sensed were running through my mother’s head as she also considered what her own peers would think, as I am sure many others do.

Back then I perceived that the assumptions that are made about females that get an STD vaccine were:

a) She is promiscuous.

b) She is about to become promiscuous.

c) She wants to be promiscuous.

At the time, I even remember having a discussion with a teacher about the HPV vaccine and her speaking about how she refused to give her child the HPV vaccine because “they should not be giving 11-12 girls a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease”.   Now I understand that the 11-12 year old visit is the optimal visit, as it eliminates the connection of the vaccine with future sexual contact by integrating it within the routine vaccine schedule, which includes meningitis vaccines and a Tdap booster. In addition, I’ve learned that by waiting to provide the vaccine at a later date, many children fall through the cracks because they do not receive routine health care in their teen years. Read more…

Why Early HPV Vaccination is Beneficial

April 29, 2015 99 comments

Since the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity, many parents question why the CDC recommends the vaccine be administered to boys and girls as young as 11 or 12 years of age.  HPV vaccination is critical if we are to prevent the 27,000 cases of anal, mouth/throat, penile, cervicalvaginal, or vulvar cancers that are diagnosed each year in the U.S.  However, since some parents have difficulty acknowledging that their teenage children may be engaging in activity that puts them at risk of HPV, they’re often reluctant to vaccinate at the recommended age.

If you’re a parent who is questioning whether your preteen child should get the HPV vaccine, it’s important to realize the benefits of vaccinating at an early age.  

 hpv-cancer-prevention

The vaccine works best prior to exposure to the HPV virus.

The fact is that almost all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives.  While most of these infections go undetected and may even clear up on their own, we know that one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected and that initial infection typically occurs in the teens or early 20s.

While most parents are hopeful that their teenagers will refrain from sexual activity until later in life, research tells us otherwise.  The data suggests that 5% of 12-year-olds, 10% of 13-year-olds and 20% of 14-year-olds are sexually active. And the likelihood of sex continues to escalate with each school grade level with 32% of 9th grade students to 62% of 12th grade students.  And since HPV can be transmitted through oral sex as well, it’s important to note that as many as 51% of 15-24 year-olds are having oral sex before they have their first sexual intercourse.

Since it’s entirely possible to get HPV the very first time that a person has sexual contact with another person, the question we must ask ourselves is why should we wait until a child is sexually active to offer vaccination? As we can see by the data, even a child as young as 12 years old can be at risk.  Even if a child should abstain from sex until marriage, there is no guarantee that their partner did the same, and they can still contract HPV that may one day lead to cancer.  However, if a child should complete the three dose series of HPV vaccination before they begin any type of sexual activity, then they’ll be better protected if they get exposed to the virus, at whatever age that may be.

The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young women.

Read more…

Why Some Parents Are Refusing HPV Vaccine For Their Children

August 20, 2013 612 comments

Some of the data contained in this post has been updated.  For a more recent review of the prevalence of HPV infection and more current data on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, click here to read “Questioning Whether to Get Your Child The HPV Vaccine?  Read this“, published in January, 2016.  

This post is not the result of an official survey. Rather, it’s a collection of the most common explanations I’ve heard parents make when refusing HPV vaccine for their children, followed by points to consider.

REASON #1: My child is not/ will not/ should not be having sexual relations. So why would they need an HPV vaccine?

As a mother to five daughters I get it. Every parent wants to believe that their son or daughter will remain abstinent until marriage. And some may. But the reality is that some children, even as young as 12 and 13, are already involved in sexual relations and this reality is what has influenced the age at which the HPV vaccine is recommended.  Here is what the studies suggest:

The HPV vaccine is most effective when the complete three shot series is given long before any sexual activity begins, which is one reason the vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12. Additionally, the vaccine illicits a greater immune response and produces higher antibody to fight infection when given at this age, compared to receiving the vaccine at a later age.

Regardless of the when a child becomes sexually active, the HPV vaccine is important because the prevalence of HPV infection is staggering:

Some parents may be surprised to learn that sexual intercourse is not necessary for infection.  Oral-genital and hand-genital transmission of some genital HPV types is possible and has been reported.  Studies show that HPV was detected in 46% of females prior to first vaginal sex.  Based on this information, it’s possible that a person can become infected during their first sexual encounter. Even if someone remains abstinent until marriage, there’s no guarantee that the person they are marrying isn’t already infected.

Yet, some parents remain concerned that vaccinating a child for a sexually transmitted disease is like giving them permission to have sex. However, research indicates that HPV vaccination has had no notable difference in the markers of sexual activity, to include pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. In other words, the vaccine does not appear to be changing sexual behaviors, only protecting those when they eventually engage in them.

The way I see it, most children by the age of 11 can understand that the HPV vaccine can protect them from various types of cancers, but not from pregnancy and STDs. It’s a simple matter of communication by which the parents can explain that the vaccine doesn’t equate to a free pass to have sex.  If a child chooses to refrain from sexual relations, I would venture to guess that it has more to do with their upbringing and strong moral character, than whether or not their parents choose to protect them with the HPV vaccine.

REASON #2: Won’t regular PAP smears detect any abnormalities and identify cervical cancer without the need for the vaccine? Read more…

HPV Vaccine is All About Cancer Prevention

January 24, 2013 91 comments

In recognition of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Lara Zibners* has contributed this guest post on the importance of HPV vaccination for both girls and boys.

DrZibnersLast year I went on a cycling weekend out in California with four other women, all of us doctors. We were there to celebrate my dear friend’s recovery from breast cancer. Of course there was the usual debauchery– feather boas included– that takes place when 5 middle-aged women have left their husbands in charge of the children. But there was still a sense of sobriety, knowing why we were all there and wishing that “chemo” and “reconstructive surgery” weren’t the frequent topics of conversation that they were. And with cancer on our minds, this group of five female physicians soon found ourselves talking about—what else?—genital warts.

The OB-Gyn in the group waxed poetically about how excited she was to immunize her patients against HPV—the human papillomavirus. It’s long been known that HPV is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer in women. HPV is a nasty little virus that spreads from skin-to-skin, person-to-person. Often this occurs during sexual contact but can also be passed from mother to child. Many people infected with HPV don’t even realize it, meaning they continue to pass the infection to others. Hence the some 6 million people infected every year with HPV.  And while HPV causes unsightly genital warts, that’s not what bothers physicians about it. What bothers us is that HPV causes cancer. And cancer, to put it bluntly, sucks.

Good news is there’s a vaccine that can protect us from the most common strains of HPV that cause cancer. It is currently recommended that girls between the ages of 11 and 12 receive 3 doses of the vaccine. As of 2011, this was extended to include the routine vaccination of boys. Naturally this caused a stir, since HPV is usually blamed for causing cervical cancer. And a boy isn’t supposed to have a cervix. So what was this? An act of chivalry? A sort of “holding the door” open so cancer wouldn’t whack a girl in the head? Read more…

HPV Vaccination Still Not Where it Needs To Be

September 25, 2012 48 comments

This morning I was reminded of the importance of  human papillomavirus vaccination after reading an article that appeared yesterday in Ob.Gyn. News.  As the parent of five daughters, and the friend of several people who have had various health complications as a result of HPV, I’m disappointed that there is a safe and effective vaccine that is currently underutilized at this point in time.  Data released as part of the CDC’s National and State Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years revealed that only 23% of 13-year-old girls in the U.S. had completed the recommended three-dose HPV series.  Additionally, as of 2011, only about 35% of all 13-17  year-old girls had completed the series.

If you are a parent that has yet to begin your child on the 3 dose HPV vaccination series, you may want to consider these tidbits of information that were included in the Ob.Gyn. News article:

  • Three-quarters of the general population become infected with HPV, and three-quarters of those infections occur at 15-24 years of age.
  • More than 50% of those who become infected with HPV do so within 2 years after becoming sexually active.
  • Studies show that more than 20% of males and females have already had vaginal sex by age 15.
  • One-third of all HPV-related cancers occur in men which is why the CDC recommended vaccination for 11-12 year old boys, as well as 11-12 year old girls.
  • Protecting boys will secondarily increase protection against cervical cancer in girls.

The article also discusses how vaccination can reduce the cost burden of this disease and references other interesting considerations regarding HPV and the vaccine to prevent it.  But what I found most interesting were the statistics that have come out of Australia, the first country to fund a HPV vaccination program for all females aged 12-26 years.

After the first two years of the Australian program, which began in July of 2007,  a national surveillance program had identified a 59% reduction in new diagnoses of genital warts among women in Australia.  There was also a 39% drop in new cases among heterosexual Australian males aged 12-26.  Even though they weren’t included in the vaccine program, the rate drop among men seems to suggest evidence of herd immunity, especially since they can be compared among the unchanged rates among men who have sex with other men.  In a subsequent report with updated data through mid-2011, Australian investigators credited “the dramatic decline and near disappearance” of genital warts in women and heterosexual men under age 21 year, to be a result of the national HPV vaccination program that had been initiated just four years prior.

This is just one example of what can be accomplished here in the United States if we work to improve HPV vaccination rates.  There are obviously some challenges we face, but when I think of my friend and fellow Shot@Life immunization champion, I’m committed to finding a way to educate parents and encourage vaccination.   Here is her story and her message to parents everywhere.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges we face in improving HPV vaccination rates?