Womens Health

Catching Cancer Before It Begins

The Gardasil vaccine has generated controversy since it first went into clinical trials. At first, the debate was about the sense that giving young girls the vaccine was tacit approval for sexual activity. Then the debate was about gender: why girls and not boys? After that the debate moved on to the dangers of the vaccine.

Wrong Again

You'd think that would be the end of the controversy, right? Wrong again. The newest problem with Gardasil is that experts don't believe it does any real good as a preventative measure against disease.

One of the issues regarding the efficacy of HPV vaccination is duration. Current vaccines don't offer long-term protection. If we knew that the vaccine would last as long as 15 years, we wouldn't mind vaccinating young girls. In this hypothetical situation, an 11 year-old girl who receives the vaccine would be protected from some precancerous conditions and postpone most cancers until she turns 26. But since the vaccine doesn't last that long, there are no cancers prevented, there is only a postponement.

But back to the safety issue: Neurologists at the 2009 American Neurological Association meeting held in Baltimore, Maryland reported one verified case in which motor neuron disease, brought on by the auto-immune system was triggered by the Gardasil vaccine. There have been some quite serious adverse consequences resulting from the Gardasil vaccine, including death.

No Reduction

What about the cancer rate? Has it gone down since the Gardasil vaccine has been in use? The unfortunate answer to this question is that no reduction in the rate of cervical cancer in the United States has been seen with HPV vaccination. The reason is that the Pap smears are good enough at screening women for cervical cancer. As long as we continue to administer Pap smears, the HPV vaccines don't seem to really add much to the picture. Here's the breakdown in the statistics:

*For women in the U.S. who undergo Pap smears, the rate of cervical cancer is 7 in 1000 women annually.

*In women who receive only the Gardasil vaccine, the rate for cervical cancer is 14, in 100,000 or two times the rate of those who begin Pap screenings at the age of 21 and continue them throughout their lives.

*In women who receive only the Cervarix vaccine, the rate for cervical cancer is 9 in 100,000 annually, still a much larger number than those women who receive only the Pap smears.

*In women who forego both screening and vaccination, the rate for cervical cancer is 90 in 100,000 every year.

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