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Posts Tagged ‘prevalence of HPV’

Questioning Whether To Get Your Child the HPV Vaccine? Read This

January 21, 2016 6 comments

iStock_000039978628_Double.jpgIn June 2006, the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was licensed for use in the U.S.  Rather than celebrate the development of a vaccine to prevent a deadly form of cancer, many parents have instead been misguided by fear.  As a result of persistent internet stories and inaccurate myths that question the safety of HPV vaccines, parents continue to refuse or delay HPV vaccines for their children, and one of the most effective ways to prevent cancer is being grossly underutilized.

Although millions of doses of HPV vaccines have been administered in the past 10 years, some parents still fear what may happen if their child gets an HPV vaccine. 

What they should fear is what may happen if they don’t.

I offer the following information about HPV because everyone should understand where their fears ought to be directed: at the disease, not the vaccine designed to prevent it.

1)  It’s not about sex, it’s about cancer.

Regardless of what parents choose to teach (or not teach) their kids about sex, abstinence or contraception, the HPV vaccine is vital to the health of our children because it protects them from cancer.

By preventing people from contracting certain strains of a highly prevalent infection, we can then prevent the possibility of HPV infections turning into cancerous cells. An HPV infection is often contracted shortly after sexual debut, and can eventually lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus or throat. Since the majority of these cancers have no formal screening measures, they often go undetected until they are well advanced.

2)  Nearly all sexually-active individuals will contract HPV at some point in their lives. 

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and is often referred to as the common cold of the genitals. HPV is not a new virus, but many people are unfamiliar with how dangerous and prevalent it is. Consider these staggering statistics:

Not only is HPV infection common, but most people rarely know they’re infected because it typically occurs without any symptoms.  Since it’s possible to develop symptoms years after first being infected, it’s especially difficult to diagnose exactly when a person first became infected.

In about 90% of cases, an HPV infection will eventually clear in about a year or two. However, during that time, those infected with HPV are often unknowingly spreading the infection to others.

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3)  As many as 10% of those infected will eventually develop cancer. 

While 90% of people may clear the infection, the other 10% end up developing cancerous cells years, or even decades, after initial exposure.  Since there is no way to determine which cases will clear and which will lead to cancer, universal vaccination is the most effective means of prevention.

The following data reveals just how many cancer cases are linked to HPV each year:

Cervical cancer: Almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV and more than 11,000 women in the U.S. alone get cervical cancer each year.  When looking at the bigger picture, 528,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2012.

Anal cancer: About 91% of anal cancers are caused by HPV and there are approximately 4,300 anal cancers diagnosed each year.

Oropharyngeal cancers(cancers of the head, neck, throat, mouth, tongue, and tonsils) About 72% are caused by HPV and an estimated 8,400 of these cancers are diagnosed each year.

Vaginal cancer: HPV causes about 75% of vaginal cancers and there are about 500 vaginal cancers diagnosed each year.

Vulvar Cancer: HPV causes about 50% of vulvar cancers and an estimated 2,100 vulvar cancers are diagnosed each year.

Penile Cancer: About 63% of penile cancers are linked to HPV and there are about 600 penile cancers diagnosed each year.

Genital Warts: There are more than 40 types of HPV that specifically affect the genital area. However, 90% of genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 or 11 and about 360,000 people in the U.S. get genital warts each year.

Since there is no test to check one’s overall HPV status, and no standard screening to detect HPV in the mouth or throat, getting an HPV vaccine is an effective way to prevent illness rather than leave people vulnerable to infections that can lead to cancer.

Some argue that since there is a test to screen for cervical cancer that this eliminates the need for vaccination among women.  While cervical cancer screenings are vitally important, they don’t prevent infection.  Instead, they help identify precancerous lesions. Once lesions are discovered, women may then need to endure various invasive and painful procedures.  These may include cone biopsies used to help diagnose precancerous or cancerous cells, and a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) often used to burn off precancerous lesions.  Additionally, cervical cancer screenings don’t help identify other HPV related cancers or help screen of men or adolescents for HPV.  With the vaccine we can prevent cancers before they exist.

4)  Surprise…you don’t have to have sex to get HPV.

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…