The Silent Global Killer: Human Papillomavirus
The STD Human Papillomavirus has a funny name, but most people know it as: HPV. I have four people close to me that know they have HPV -they are far from "the town tart" that you might want to label them as. In fact, one person contracted HPV with her first boyfriend.
What is HPV?
Clinical studies have confirmed that a virus (HPV) is the primary causal factor in the development of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second–most–common type of cancer affecting women worldwide today. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 9,710 cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 related deaths occur annually in the United States. Globally, cervical cancer affects more than 470,000 women each year, killing in excess of 230,000. here are over 100 types of HPV; about 70 percent of which infect the skin and most frequently cause warts. Of the other 30 percent (about 23 types) that are sexually transmitted there are 13 types of HPV that are considered high-risk. These high-risk types can trigger dysplaisa, abnormal cell changes that may lead to cancer.
- Approximately 80 percent of all individuals who are sexually active will contract HPV by the age of 50, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
- HPV Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and HPV Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts cases.
- Early detection of HPV helps to determine if a colposcopy is need and
if pre-cancer treatment should begin.
- 6.2 million Americans get genital HPV infections each year
- 20 million people that are currently infected with HPV.
With epic statistics and little to do to protect yourself one would think that a vaccine would be praised by the public. Not so in some parts of the US. "The introduction of a vaccine against HPV types 16 and 18, which together cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, has been dogged by arguments. Some conservative groups complain that by cutting the risk of catching a sexually-transmitted disease, the vaccine would encourage sexual activity in young girls." [NewScientist.com; 05.14.2007]
Attempts to introduce compulsory vaccination programs at the state level have run up against opposition. Four states – West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and New Mexico – have rejected vaccine programs. In Texas, governor Rick Perry suffered embarrassment last month when his order requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated was blocked by the state Senate. Only one state – Virginia – has so far passed a law requiring vaccination.
But the new results, which include extra data showing a lack of side effects, could influence the debate in the 15 states, all in central and eastern part of the US, where legislation is still on the table. In the meantime, some states are opting for less controversial voluntary programs. In New Hampshire, where the shots are on offer to girls aged 11 to 18, several clinics are reported to have run out of stock
How is vaccinating children going to encourage sexual activity in young girls? I'm not sure, but I don't believe the Hepatitis B vaccine encouraged people to have more sex, get more tattoos and body piercings -or did it? I suppose no one knows the answer to that one. Regardless, I can understand being concerned about sexual activity in children, but is it fair to them to be exposed to HPV when you -as a parent- can prevent it?
I don't see people arguing that the flu shot encourages people to go to social functions; so how does the HPV vaccine encourage people to be more sexually active? You still wash your hands before you eat and you don't eat off the floor because you are invincible after the flu shot -you still use precautions and you are aware that you are vulnerable. The same would apply to the HPV vaccine.
How do you get HPV? (see additional websites below)
"We must emphasize that this virus lives in the top (layer) of
our skin - not in our blood stream, not in our spinal cord, nor in any
other internal organs. We must emphasize that this virus infects every
single human being, usually in the form of hand or feet warts in
childhood, so there is nothing extraordinary about having an HPV
infection. We must emphasize that this virus can only move from one
human to another through skin-to-skin contact (not through pets or
towels or linen), where the receiving skin already has a (usually
microscopic) abrasion. We must emphasize that humans are meant to live
in communities and must have skin-to-skin contact to survive.
Cancer-causing HPV infections (just) happen." —Diane Harper,
MD, MPh, MS, Director of the Gynecologic Prevention Research Group,
Norris Cotton Cancer Center; Associate Professor of Community and
Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical Center; and Associate Professor of
the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, Dartmouth College. Quoted
in HPV Today, October 2005.
Why is that so important? Because condoms do not protect you against HPV. Further, the BBC reported last week that in preliminary findings: oral sex could lead to throat cancer.
HPV infection was found to be a much stronger risk factor than tobacco
or alcohol use, the Johns Hopkins University study of 300 people found.
The New England Journal of Medicine study said the risk was almost nine
times higher for people who reported oral sex with more than six
While this article is lengthly and has a doomsday tone to it, it is important to know that there is hope and opportunity for those that seek it. As one of my friends described what she went through:
"After my colposcopy determined I had abnormal cells, they scheduled a time for me to come in for a LEEP Procedure; to determine the severity of the abnormalities. The way I understood it: it was not going to hurt after they gave me a local anesthetic. Well, the local didn't kick in and I felt like they took a cheese slicer to my cervix! I jumped the second the doctor touched me and I cried the whole time. Hell I wanted to kick the doctor in the head! When the doctor was finished I was left knowing I would get the cancer test results in one week -and if needed, I would have to get another LEEP. If that wasn't successful surgery was going to be discussed. Thankfully the LEEP worked and my follow up PAP 4 months later looked good. I have to get a check up [PAP] every 6 months until they say otherwise. "
Please stay informed and do what you can to spread the word about HPV.
- The HPV Test - http://www.thehpvtest.com/
- CDC Information on HPV - http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/
- CDC Fact Sheet on HPV - http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm
- Human papillomavirus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_papillomavirus
- Yellow Umbrella Tour - http://www.yellowumbrellatour.com/
In the news:
- Canada's Conservative Government Distributes $300 Million to Provinces for Controversial HPV Vaccination - LlifeSite
- Oral sex linked to throat cancer - BB
- HPV Vaccine: Few Risks, Many Benefits - New York Times
- Belgium recommends Merck's HPV vaccine for girls - Reuters
(Portions of this article were taken from 2005 research I did for a term paper in college. All primary statistics were checked against current numbers on the CDC website and other relevant websites. Since I did not perform the actual clinical studies I cannot fully confirm, nor dispute the results. I do not own stock in Merck, nor do I work for the company.)