Sunday, August 30, 2009

HPV vaccines cannot treat women who are already infected

A new study suggests that cervical cancer vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV) do not reduce or eliminate preexisting infections.

Study researcher Allan Hildesheim at the National Cancer Institute says that, based on this research, the best approach is to vaccinate girls and women before they initiate any sexual activity.

The CDC recommends that girls should be vaccinated around 11 to 12 years of age, most of whom would not have already become sexually active. According to Hildesheim, for women who have already become sexually active, cervical cancer screening is a better preventative measure than vaccination.
The study showed that the body can clear many HPV infections on its own, but that vaccinating does not increase the clearance rate in infected women.

The CDC recommends the vaccines for women up to age 26. Recommendations that women should receive regular Pap smears remain unchanged.
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Variety of Pap virus is consistent across continents, vaccines should be effective around the world

The distribution of the different types of human papilloma virus that cause cervical cancer are consistent across the world, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This means that the vaccines that are currently available to protect against the two most prevalent types of HPV could prevent about 70 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases not just in the U.S, but around the world.

The researchers report that HPV16 is the most common and HPV18 is the second-most common typie in all continents. Gardasil by Merck protects against both of these types as does a similar vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline.

Lead study author Jennifer Smith, Ph.D cautions, "While having these vaccines represents a significant step forward, HPV-vaccinated women will need to receive clear messages that they still need to obtain their recommended Pap smears for cervical cancer prevention, given that HPV vaccines will not prevent all invasive cancer or high-grade lesions."

Cervical cancer: a disease of 'loose' women?

It's been proven that cervical cancer has a significant connection with unprotected sex and STDs, particularly HPV. So is issuing a drug proven to prevent HPV to school-age girls a way to help them protect themselves from cancer? Or is it, as the Christian Voice in Britain believes, the equivalent to calling all school-age girls promiscuous, in turn suggesting that they are not morally intelligent enough to abstain from sex until marriage?

This debate has arisen in the UK in response to a call from a group called Jo's Trust to vaccinate school-age girls against HPV with a drug called Gardasil, which has been shown to protect against HPV 100%. Stephen Green of the Christian Voice has this to say about it:

The message is one of despair, disrespect and low expectations. Anyone giving this drug to a girl is telling her: "I think you are a slag". But it is also irresponsible and will raise promiscuity, teenage pregnancy and, worst of all, infertility. Young women will be thinking they have more protection than they actually have.
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