HPV Vaccine Success - 8 Years and Counting
by Angela Bowen
A lot of controversy exists over the Gardasil® vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) approved for women 9-26 to prevent cancer causing HPV strains 16 and 18, and genital wart causing strains 6 and 11. In 2002, at age 19, I myself received the vaccine as part of the human clinical trial for approval by the FDA.
Studies are now available after presentation at the 25th International Papilomavirus Conference in Sweden with more than 8 years of data collection highlighting very encouraging results. Not only have the majority of women vaccinated remained protected, but the number of procedures for abnormal Pap tests have been greatly reduced. Data of a subset of over 9,500 women were analyzed in the results presented. The original combined studies for approval of the vaccine were participated in by over 17,000 women.
There is great controversy on how and when to use the vaccine in young women. Here are some links for facts concerning HPV and recommendations for use.
The vaccine is recommended for girls aged 11-13 but approved for use in girls as young as 9 and as old as 26. For some, this seems like a very young age to vaccinate for a primarily sexually transmitted disease, and hopefully, this is correct. However, by the age of 15, 26% of girls in the United States have had sexual intercourse and by age 18 that number has increased to 70%. An additional 11% have had oral or non penetrative sexual contact. HPV does not require sexual penetration to be passed, nor are condoms entirely effective in preventing HPV.
The Good News for the Vaccine
HPV 16 Follow-up
No vaccinated women were infected with HPV 16 or HPV 16 related cervical lesions.
6 unvaccinated women had HPV 16 infection and 3 developed related cervical lesions.
The combined treatment length (1998-2004) and follow up (2006-2008) yielded similar tracked results.
1 vaccinated woman developed HPV 16 infection but did not develop related cervical lesions.
21 unvaccinated women developed HPV 16 infection and 8 developed related cervical lesions.
Breaking down these numbers into simple percents based on the women participating:
0.3% developed HPV 16 infection.
0.0% developed HPV 16 related cervical lesions
7.2% developed HPV 16 infection
2.8% developed HPV 16 related cervical lesions
Strain 16 of the HPV virus is regarded as the most virulent strain and accounts for the greatest number of illnesses and abnormalities. Additional information is now available indicating a reduction in the number of medical interventions resulting from HPV illnesses and pre-cancerous lesions in women who have been vaccinated.
And second, an article that might sound like bad news on the face, but is actually good news:
Does HPV Cause Lung Cancer as Well as Cervical Cancer
Tuesday July 21, 2009
Does HPV (human papilloma virus) – the virus we know to be responsible for most cases of cervical cancer – cause lung cancer?
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), National Cancer Institute
The answer is – it may.
As many of us grow weary of the controversy over the HPV vaccine, we now have another variable thrown into the expanding equation. According to the authors of a study published in the journal Lung Cancer, HPV may even be the 2nd most important cause of lung cancer after smoking.
How did they come to that conclusion?
As the link between HPV and cervical cancer was discovered by finding HPV in cervical cancer cells, HPV has been found in roughly 20-25% of lung cancers in the United States. Whether this frames HPV as a cause of lung cancer, however, is another question. People with lung cancer are more likely to use oxygen than the general public, yet nobody would theorize that oxygen causes lung cancer. But it is a question we need to look at very closely.
According to current thought, HPV most likely works as a cofactor in the development of lung cancer, that is, something that works together with another risk factor such as smoking or radon to cause cancer. If this turns out to be the case, learning about HPV prevention might be something we need to add to our efforts to prevent lung cancer in the future.
Read more about HPV and lung cancer:
Now, before anyone freaks out, remember, this article is GOOD NEWS. First, we don't know that HPV *causes* lung cancer, just that it's been found in lung cancer cells. This is not the first article I've read on the subject, and I've also seen other articles about a discovery of HPV found in skin cancer cells. What seems to be the more popular theory is that the presence of HPV might encourage the development of a cancer that is already present or lower the body's ability to fight a cancer caused by another factor.
Second, the rate of lung cancer has not gone up with this discovery. The chances of lung cancer are the same as they've always been, and the overwhelming cause is still smoking. Roughly 80% of lung cancer cases still don't have any HPV, so not smoking is still the best way to avoid getting lung cancer.
And third, the real reason why this is Good News is that this is yet one more bit of information that will be used to combat cancer. Now that we know there is a portion of lung cancer cases that have HPV present, we can learn what the HPV has to do with it and that might give us additional tools for combating it. If it turns out that the HPV encourages the cancer growth, for instance, then knowing to look for HPV, and then finding it, means we can treat the HPV in order to prevent a relapse or to enable treatments to work that might otherwise have not worked and we had no idea why a treatment wouldn't work on some patients and not others.
So, remember, this is not cause for panic. Smoking is still the number one cause of lung cancer, and the cases of lung cancer have not increased with this discovery. This discovery means we have a better chance when treating lung cancer in the future, and this is GOOD NEWS!
So start encouraging your personal physicians to do the HPV DNA test when they give you a pap smear, get checked regularly, and pay attention to your diet and excercize routine. If you have the money for it, ask for the vaccine, off-label if necessary, and keep up with your metamours' health records.
As to that, I re-recommend Google Health, a resource that allows you to organize all your medical records into one place, that allows your doctors to access all your records even if you change doctors or health plans so you don't have to re-take tests when your doctor can't get your records from your old doctor, allows your pharmacy to keep track of your prescriptions, keeps up with your medications to automatically detect possible conflicts, AND lets you share your profile with other individuals, such as partners, metamours, and Emergency Contact people.