vaccination

ASCO Urges Aggressive Efforts to Increase HPV Vaccination

Source: www.medscape.com
Author: Zosia Chustecka
 

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines have now been available for 10 years, but despite many medical professional bodies strongly recommending the vaccine, uptake in the United States remains low.

Data from a national survey show that about 36% of girls and 14% of boys have received the full schedule of HPV vaccines needed to provide protection (Vaccine. 2013;31:1673-1679).

Now the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has become involved, and in a position statement issued today the organization calls for aggressive efforts to increase uptake of the HPV vaccines to “protect young people from life-threatening cancers.”

“With safe and effective vaccines readily available, no young person today should have to face the devastating diagnosis of a preventable cancer like cervical cancer. But unless we rapidly increase vaccination rates for boys and girls, many of them will,” ASCO President Julie M. Vose, MD, said in a statement.

“As oncologists, we see the terrible effects of these cancers first hand, and we have to contribute to improving today’s alarmingly low vaccination rates,” she added.

The new policy statement is published online April 11 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The statement notes that HPV vaccination has been previously recommended by many US medical societies, including the American Cancer Society, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee, the American Dental Association, the American Head and Neck Society, the American Nurses Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the Association of Immunization Managers, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

In addition, a joint letter was sent out to all physicians urging them to give a strong recommendation from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Immunization Action Coalition.

Now oncologists are specifically being asked by their professional body, ASCO, to join in with the push toward greater uptake of the HPV vaccines.

“ASCO believes oncologists can play a vital role in increasing the uptake of HPV vaccines,” the new policy statement says. “Although most oncologists will not be direct providers of these preventive measures, this does not abrogate us from contributing to this process. Our unassailable role in the mission to lessen the burden of cancer…places us in a position of influence. We should use interactions with our patients, primary care colleagues, and health care systems to raise awareness of HPV-related cancers and the role of vaccination in preventing them.”

Oncology providers have a responsibility to serve as community educators.

“Oncology providers have a responsibility to serve as community educators, disseminating evidence-based information to combat misconceptions concerning the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine,” it continues.

“ASCO encourages oncologists to advocate for and actively promote policy change to increase vaccination uptake,” the statement concludes.

Issues With the Statement

However, there are a few issues with the statement, says a prominent researcher in the field of HPV and cervical cancer, Diane Harper MD, professor and chair of the department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, University of Louisville, Kentucky. Dr Harper, who was approached for comment, was involved in early clinical trials with both HPV vaccines (Gardasil, Merck & Co, and Cervarix, GlaxoSmithKline), and has emphasized the need for ongoing screening with Pap tests to prevent cervical cancer.

This is also one of the issues she raises about the ASCO statement, which does not mention screening. “All messages about HPV vaccination must be couched in terms of continued lifetime screening for cervical cancer,” Dr Harper told Medscape Medical News.

The ASCO statement highlights the potential that HPV vaccination has for preventing cancer. (Both vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18, and Gardasil offers additional protection against several other types). The statement notes that HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer cases and that HPV genotypes 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. In the United States, HPV is responsible for 60% of oropharyngeal cancers, 90% of which are caused by HPV 16. HPV is also the cause of 91% of anal cancers, 75% of vaginal cancers, 69% of vulvar cancers, and 63% of penile cancers, again with HPV 16 as the predominant oncogenic genotype.

However, the statement also notes that “because of the long latency and the prolonged preinvasive phase after infection with HPV, many years of follow-up are needed for the ongoing trials to demonstrate a significant reduction in HPV-related cancers.”

Therefore, intermediate outcomes are being used as surrogate endpoints, it continues. HPV vaccines have been shown to prevent new cancer-causing HPV genotype-specific infections and resultant diseases, such as grades 2 and 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasias (CIN), vaginal, vulvar, and anal intraepithelial neoplasias (as precursor lesions to cancer).

There is “almost certainty that cancers caused by oncogenic HPV genotypes will be dramatically reduced,” according to the statement.

Dr Harper told Medscape Medical News that the studies conducted to date have shown that “Cervarix has a 93% efficacy against CIN 3 regardless of HPV type; Gardasil has a 47% efficacy against CIN 3 regardless of HPV type, and Gardasil 9 is equivalent to Gardasil in the prevention of CIN 3 disease regardless of HPV type. None of these vaccines can prevent all CIN 3 or potentially all cancers.”

“Hence, the most important take home point is that screening is absolutely necessary as a prevention tool for preventing cancer by early detection of disease that when found, is curable,” Dr Harper emphasized.

Also, Dr Harper noted that the studies ended at prevention of CIN 2/3 disease as a clinical outcome. CIN 3 on average progresses to cancer in 20% of women within 5 years, and to 40% of women in 30 years. But, she points out, “there are no long-term follow-up studies that show that cancers will be averted.”

“The modeling exercises indicate that we have to wait at least 40 years before we will have a detectable decrease in cervical cancers from vaccination, assuming that at least 70% of the population being surveyed is vaccinated,” she added.

In its statement, ASCO cites the success of widespread vaccination against hepatitis B virus in reducing the incidence of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer as “an exemplary health model that supports more widespread HPV vaccination.”

But Dr Harper argues that “the prevention of liver cancer was an unexpected highlight of HBV vaccination. The primary purpose was to relieve the symptoms of chronic HBV sufferers. The continual re-infection with HBV seems to allow a natural infection to act as a booster in this population, which may not be the same for HPV.”

There also remains a question of how long the protection offered by HPV vaccination will last.

The ASCO statement says, “Both vaccines have a known duration of protection of at least 5 years, with ongoing study of the full duration of their effect,” and it notes that “additional research is needed to evaluate duration of protection to determine if booster doses are required.”

Dr Harper said, “Estimates of long-term effectiveness are based on antibody titers, yet there is no surrogate of protection defined by antibody titers.”

She added: “I agree that observational studies will inform the public health authorities about when a booster will be needed and whether it is needed sooner if only 2 doses are received vs later if 3 doses​ are received.”

Last, but not least, there is the issue of safety.

The ASCO statement notes that both Gardasil and Cervarix “reported excellent short- and long-term safety results in clinical trials. The most common adverse effects were mild and included injection site pain (approximately nine in 10 people) and swelling (approximately one in three), fever (approximately one in eight), headache, and fatigue (approximately one in two). These symptoms were transient and resolved spontaneously. The incidence of serious adverse effects was low and was similar to those who received placebo (aluminum-containing placebo or hepatitis A vaccine).”

However, worldwide there continue to be reports of adolescents who report chronic side effects and pain syndromes after being vaccinated against HPV. Some of these have been documented in the medical literature, with physicians reporting instances of previously healthy athletic girls becoming incapacitated with pain, fatigue, and autonomic dysfunction, and some remaining permanently disabled.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly said that HPV vaccines have an excellent safety record and that no causal associations have been found with atypical or unusual pain syndromes or autonomic dysfunction. The European authorities have investigated two chronic syndromes reported with HPV vaccination, and have said that there is no evidence to show causation.

However, Danish researchers who were among the first to report these syndromes criticized the investigation and are conducting their own study. There have also been lawsuits filed in several countries, and a class action lawsuit is now planned in Japan against the government and the vaccine manufacturers.

In an interview with Medscape Medical News, lead author on the ASCO statement, Howard H. Bailey, MD, from the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, said that the concerns over safety should not be dismissed and should be studied further.

These issues need to be studied further, even if the authorities say that the vaccines are safe, he emphasized. These reports of girls becoming very ill, having pain syndrome and weakness, should not be diminished, he said, adding: “We can’t just ignore these reports…if there is risk involved, then that needs to be sorted out better.”

However, there is always a possibility that the syndromes and side effects that have been reported “have nothing to do with the vaccine,” Dr Bailey commented, citing the case of now-discredited theory linking autism to the pediatric vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella.

There may be other explanations for the symptoms that are reported, or it could be that the symptoms/syndrome would have developed in the individual, anyway, but the vaccination precipitated it sooner, he suggested.

Dr Bailey noted that across the United States physicians are very sensitive to the fact that rates of pediatric vaccination have gone down because of the link that had been made to autism, subsequently shown to be false. Even though science eventually showed no link between the vaccine and autism, public confidence in the vaccine was damaged.

“When a person’s life has been devastated by an illness, that is very important, but if it turns out that the illness is not related to the vaccine, and in the meantime, the concerns over safety have stopped thousands of young people from being vaccinated….”well, eventually this will mean that there are more people who die from cancer, he said.

“I would be very reluctant right now to shut down the goals of vaccination over what has been reported, because the bottom line is that we have a tremendous problem with the rising incidence of HPV related cancers including in men as well as women when it comes to oropharyngeal cancers here in the States,” he added.

“The data, at least in my opinion, are so strong that HPV vaccination if it’s done in a [systematic] way will reduce the incidence of these cancers…I don’t want to stop whatever progress we are making when there is at best disagreement over whether these things are associated,” he said, although he also added that “maybe if it was my daughter, I would feel differently.”

Dr Bailey also addressed some of the other issues that had been raised about the ASCO statement, and said he agreed about the importance of screening.

“Even if vaccination does all the things we expect it to do, there is no doubt that cervical cancer screening needs to continue, and that’s a pretty standard recommendation across all of the groups,” he said. “We do not mean to diminish the importance of continued screening,” he said, but he added that screening lies in the domain of other physicians, such as primary care and gynecology, whereas this statement was targeted specifically at oncologists. “To take a step back, we are taking the view of cancer physicians, who take care of women, who are unfortunately too often dying of cervical cancer, and…we wanted to remind people that HPV vaccination can prevent this…as well as other associated cancers,” he said.

“The audience in North America has not been paying attention to this vaccination issue very much,” he continued, and “we wanted to remind oncologists and the public that at the heart of the issue is cancer prevention.

“We have this relatively easy way of preventing cancers over and above the ways that we already use,” he added.

“We wanted to remind people, especially in the oncology community, that there is this intervention out there that we think is highly, highly likely — if applied and used in a population format — will significantly reduce the number of women dying of cervical cancer, the number of men and women dying from oropharyngeal cancer, which is increasing in the US…and that was the main focus of the article,” Dr Bailey commented.

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

April, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

The Oral Cancer Foundation’s Founder, Brian R. Hill, honored by the Global Oral Cancer Forum – International oral cancer community honor his accomplishments in the field.

Source: www.prnewswire.com
Author: The Oral Cancer Foundation
 

Bryan R. Hill receiving the award at the Global Oral Cancer Forum. (PRNewsFoto/Oral Cancer Foundation)

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., March 10, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At the recent Global Oral Cancer Forum (GOCF), Brian R. Hill, Executive Director and Founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), was honored for his work as an advocate and innovative thinker in the oral cancer arena. The GOCF organizers and community awarded Hill the 2016 Global Oral Cancer Forum Commitment, Courage and Innovation Leadership Award for his dedication and contributions to the field of oral cancer over the last 18 years. Upon accepting the award, Hill received a standing ovation from those in attendance, which included global oral cancer thought leaders, researchers, treatment physicians, other non-profit organizations and representatives from various government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health / National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

When asked about being honored Hill said, “In the beginning and for many years I was alone at OCF and it was just the seed of an idea. Those grassroots efforts matured into a robust network of important relationships with a common goal. Today OCF is so much more than just me and my singular efforts. Through the benevolence of the many OCF supporters, particularly in the RDH, dental/medical professional communities and survivor groups, OCF has grown into a powerful national force for proactive change of the late discovery paradigm, access to quality information, disease and patient advocacy, funding of research, and patient support.” Hill acknowledges that he had the mentorship of some of the brightest minds of the non-profit world to build his understanding of appropriate governorship of an entity such as OCF, as well as support from core researchers and treatment professionals in the oral cancer arena. “To paraphrase someone far more famous, if I was able to see farther than others had going before me, it was because I stood on the shoulders of many highly accomplished others who helped me achieve my goals,” says Hill.

Hill, a stage four oral cancer survivor, became a student of the disease after his own diagnosis left him looking for answers. Since founding OCF and overseeing the path and initiatives of the foundation for more than a decade and a half, Hill often finds the advocacy role suits him well. He has championed anti-tobacco legislation within the political system, and is an advocate at various government entities such as the CDC regarding vaccination of boys against the virus known to be the primary cause of most oropharyngeal cancers.  He also sits on two National Institutes of Health (NIH) oversight committees—one at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which oversees clinical trials in immunotherapies in head and neck cancers, the other at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) reviewing trials looking at long-term outcomes and complications of treatment in head and neck cancers. In addition, Hill still one-on-one counsels patients, participates in OCF’s online Patient Support Forum, and is often the voice for a community that has lost its own, through many diverse media interviews and lectures.

While OCF has received many awards for its advocacy work and contributions to the battle against oral cancer, including recognition from the NIH/NIDCR, WHO, Great Non-Profits, various universities and professional medical and dental societies, and even Internet guru Mashable.com for innovations in applying technology to serve its health oriented goals, receiving recognition from this forums organizers and some of the  leading authorities on oral cancer in the international community is particularly meaningful. Those in attendance are recognized as experts in the field and understand the challenges and importance of the work OCF has undertaken. Sponsored by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, the benevolent arm of the powerful Henry Schein Inc., known for its long-term commitment to improve issues related to oral care, The Global Oral Cancer Forum’s vision is to build partnerships that will promote the changes required for a substantial impact on the incidence, morbidity, and mortality of oral cancer worldwide. The importance of the Schein organization’s leadership in creating this venue cannot be overstated.

Top oral cancer experts and advocates from around the world, representing countries as far away as Japan, China, and India as well as from the Americas, convened over the weekend to attend the inaugural forum. Attendees included clinicians, scientists, epidemiologists, activists, public health experts, as well as OCF Directors and other NPO organization heads who are working hard to find impactful avenues to reduce the global oral cancer burden. Attendees met to exchange ideas and learn from one another about what is and isn’t working in the global realm of this disease. Delegates from thirty-three countries presented new research findings and discussed their unique challenges and approaches to understanding and addressing one of the leading burdens of the cancer world.

Globally, the incidence rate for oral cancer is growing and has reached what many experts are calling epidemic proportions. This year approximately half a million patients will be newly diagnosed with an oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Among the topics discussed by GOCF panelists were the rise in disease incidence and the regional disparities and factors affecting global populations. Communities throughout much of South East Asia report a high percentage of the population chewing betel and areca nut, a significant risk factor for the development of oral cancer. Meanwhile in the U.S. and other developed countries the prevalence of the HPV virus is the leading contributor to the rising rates of oropharyngeal cancers. Identifying these differences is vital to the development of effective prevention, public policy, and treatment strategies. Advancement of a universal understanding of what the problems are and what initiatives are working around the globe, reveals commonalities, and within them the group will find its beginning joint efforts to effect change.

Looking forward there is clearly much work to be done. The good news is that there are significant strides being made in research and treatment; but balancing those positives, there are also significant shortcomings in current governmental policies, prevention, and public awareness and understanding. Hill said, “While I and OCF are very proud to have been chosen by the organizers, and the global oral cancer community to receive this award, it only serves to motivate us to strive to accomplish more. We have built relationships here that will translate into new avenues of endeavor for OCF in the future.” Jamie O’Day, OCF’s Director of Operations, also attended the conference and spent her time networking with her counterparts from around the world. Many new ideas were garnered from these discussions that will be applied in future OCF initiatives and support OCF’s mission to reduce the suffering caused by this disease both nationally and globally.

About the Oral Cancer Foundation:
The Oral Cancer Foundation, founded by oral cancer survivor Brian R. Hill, is an IRS registered non-profit 501(c)(3) public service charity that provides vetted information, patient support, sponsorship of research, as well as disease and risk factor reduction advocacy related to oral cancer. Oral cancer is the largest group of those cancers that fall into the head and neck cancer category. Common names for it include such things as mouth cancer, tongue cancer, tonsil cancer, head and neck cancer, and throat cancer. The Oral Cancer Foundation maintains the websites: www.oralcancer.org , www.oralcancernews.org , www.oralcancersupport.org , which receive millions of hits per month. Supporting the foundation’s goals is a scientific advisory board composed of leading cancer authorities from varied medical and dental specialties, and from prominent educational, treatment, and research institutions in the United States. The foundation also manages the Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund, a collaboration between the Paltrow family represented by Ms. Blythe Danner (Paltrow), Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Paltrow and the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Media Contact: Jamie O’Day / The Oral Cancer Foundation (949) 723-4400 jamie@oralcancerfoundation.org

HPV rates down, CDC credits vaccine

Source: www.thv11.com
Author: Winnie Wright

Researchers say the rates of a cancer causing virus are on the decline thanks to vaccinations. In recent years, vaccinations have become a hot-button issue for parents and the HPV vaccine was no exception.

When the CDC began recommending the Human papillomavirus vaccine in 2006, there was a lot of push back from parents. A new study from the CDC says the rates of HPV infection are down 63 percent among girls ages 14 to 19 in the last decade and it credits the HPV vaccination.

The vaccine was very controversial when it hit the main stream 10 years ago, and THV11 wanted to know, have those findings changed parents’ minds about the vaccination?

“I think there was a great fear that the HPV Vaccine was some sort of signal to adolescent girls that sex was safe. And that there would be an increase in sexual activity and promiscuity, and in fact, that’s not happened. We’ve seen sort of the opposite,” explained Dr. Gary Wheeler, CMO for the Arkansas Department of Health.

HPV is most commonly spread through sex. According to the CDC, an estimated 79 million females aged 14-59 are infected with HPV. 14 million new infections are reported in the U.S. each year.

When Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, was introduced in 2006, it was a hard pill for many parents to swallow. The vaccine is especially encouraged for children under the age of 12, because it’s most effective the younger you are. Parents didn’t want to think of their kids as being sexually active at that age.

“I mean, of course nobody likes to think ‘my child is going to be sexually active’, but life happens and just sticking your head in the sand and pretending like it’s never ever going to happen, to me is just somewhat foolish’,” said Kate Bueche, a pro-HPV Vaccine parent.

According to Cancer.gov, virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

For Bueche, the subject hits close to home. She survived early stages of cervical cancer and had her daughter vaccinated for HPV, in hopes that she won’t have to go through that same ordeal.

“You get the flu vaccine and you may still get the flu, but why not go ahead and get the vaccine and cut your chances for it.”

But not all parents agree. We asked our THV11 Facebook friends if the CDC’s recent findings changed their opinions of the HPV vaccine. One mother said: “Not anymore. My daughter had the shot and she had a seizure right after.” Another mother said: “Not after reviewing the newest reports of side effects. “One mother even got the shot for her son. She said: “My son took the shots without any adverse side effects. If I had to make the choice again, I would have him take it again.”

Dr. Wheeler says vaccinating men is the next step in lowering the number of HPV infections. Most men who get HPV never develop symptoms, but they can still spread the infection.

“Males are at risk for cancer. They can have HPV-associated genital cancer, and also oral cancers because of sexual practices that would lead to HPV infection.”

The CDC now recommends the HPV vaccine for boys beginning at 11-years-old. There are also talks about including the HPV vaccine in infant vaccines, or even making it mandatory.

March, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Why a Cure For Cancer Is Possible

Source: www.fortune.com
Author: Robert Mulroy
 

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 05:  A doctor holds a stethoscope on September 5, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Doctors in the country are demanding higher payments from health insurance companies (Krankenkassen). Over 20 doctors' associations are expected to hold a vote this week over possible strikes and temporary closings of their practices if assurances that a requested additional annual increase of 3.5 billion euros (4,390,475,550 USD) in payments are not provided. The Kassenaerztlichen Bundesvereinigung (KBV), the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, unexpectedly broke off talks with the health insurance companies on Monday.  (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Cutting drug prices is not out of the question.

A crapshoot is defined as a risky or uncertain matter; something that could produce a good or bad result. President Obama’s moonshot on cancer is different in terms of its greater complexity and higher moral purpose — but unfortunately, not in its probability of success.

The Audacity of Scope

President Obama has asked Congress for $755 million to “focus” on immunotherapy, combination therapy, vaccines that prevent cancer causing viruses, and early detection techniques. According to Vice President Joe Biden, who will coordinate 13 government institutions in this research, “Our job is to clear out the bureaucratic hurdles, and let science happen.”

It is hard not to welcome such an initiative. Cancer has deposed heart disease as the number one killer in 22 American states. Experts project the number of global cancer cases will double in the next 15 years. But we are better at projecting the demand for innovation than we are at producing it; and we are even better at making promises we can’t keep and polices that don’t work.

President Roosevelt created the National Cancer Institute in 1937. Nixon declared a “war on cancer” with the National Cancer Act in 1971. The Bush administration spoke in 2003 of spending $600 million per year to rid the world of cancer by 2015. Obama and Biden made campaign promises to fight cancer in 2008, and should be lauded for trying to keep them, but their approach needs a lot of work.

The underlying assumption is that we should spend as much money, and use as many public and private constituencies to do as much as we can on as many paths as possible. There are three things wrong with this: first, $755 million is a measly sum under the current paradigm drug development. It can cost a company up to $5 billion and a full decade to bring one cancer-fighting drug to market. Second, we have tried this strategy before. Doing the same thing again, only harder, will lead to numerous failures whose cost will be passed on to the insurance companies and their customers in the form of high drug prices. Third, the answer is right in front of us.

We use the term moonshot to reference JFK’s successful space program, but don’t apply its deepest insights. We in the cancer fighting community lack that program’s predictive models, which were the key to its success. Despite severe technological limitations, NASA believed in predictive models based in math, engineering and physics. They modeled, for example, gravity’s influence on earth launches, moon landings, and human tissue. The models told them exactly what tools were needed to do the job. Only then did they build spacecraft to accomplish our goals.

Meanwhile, back on earth, we build tools before we understand the problem of cancer. Two-thirds of published research cannot be reproduced. In the post-genomic era, the FDA approves only 7% of drugs that enter cancer clinical research. Over the past five years, twice as many trials have resulted in only a 10% increase in approvals. Industry investment in R&D has gone backwards, and with it comes a soaring cost of innovation that drives drug prices. Imagine the public tumult, the demand for our leaders to resign, if only one in 14 of rockets carried our astronauts safely!

Great Strategy is Reconciling what Others Believe are Opposites

The discussion we should be having is how to cure cancer and lower drug prices at the same time. Cancer is a multidimensional, ever-changing disease of the entire cell system. The standard focus on individual targets — while supporting publications to drive academic careers and intellectual property that supports high-risk industry investment — has failed. The secrets of biology lay in the interactions between molecules: the dynamics. We need to hack into a human cell as if it were a computer and decode the operating system: switch these proteins off to cure pancreatic cancer, turn others on to end heart disease, and deliver smart growth factors to regenerate neural tissue.

If predictive engineering was the impetus behind space travel, then systems biology can spur innovation and foster initiatives of “cell exploration.” Systems biology is the method of building models of complex biological environments so we can design the right drug from the start. These drugs would have fewer off-target effects and last longer at the disease site. They would also cost less because the cost of failure of the present “scattershot” system of drug discovery would not be passed along to the consumer.

The NIH is a national treasure that houses the tiny National Centers for Systems Biology, a network of our top academic institutions and thought leaders who are already on the path to uncovering cellular secrets. But last year, of the $25 billion in grants supported by the NIH, those aimed at the truly transformational opportunity of systems biology totaled a mere $8 million, or .032% of the total.

Many of us now know that a “war on cancer,” campaign promises massive infusions of capital, top-down political coordination and even the genomic revolution do not come close to the value created by a greater understanding of systems biology. If we call it a moonshot, but don’t comprehend the real key to putting a man on the moon, how is that different than a crapshoot?

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

March, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Study: HPV vaccine reduces HPV incidence in teenage girls

Source: www.upi.com
Author: Stephen Feller
 
Study-HPV-vaccine-reduces-HPV-incidence-in-teenage-girlsJust over half of girls have received the HPV vaccination, but a new CDC study shows it has significantly reduced prevalence of the cancer-causing STI among females who have received the vaccine when compared with those who have not. Photo by Adam Gregor/Shutterstock

 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) — The prevalence of human papillomavirus infection among teenage and young adult women is down nearly two-thirds since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recommending vaccine in 2006, according to a new study.

The study is the first to show a drop in prevalence among women in their 20s, and continues to show decreases seen in smaller studies during the last few years, but researchers say the effect could be much stronger.

The vaccine is recommended by the CDC and other organizations for girls and boys starting at age 11, experts say, in order to protect children from HPV before they become sexually active and can become infected.

Concerns that the vaccine would influence teens’ sexual practices have also been unfounded, as research has shown the vaccine does not make children more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, based on a the lack of an increase in other STI incidence among vaccinated girls.

“It’s just like putting on your seatbelt before turning on the car,” Dr. Alix Casler, medical director of pediatrics for Orlando Health, told UPI. She suggests separating the adolescents’ eventual discovery of sex from the effort to prevent life-threatening diseases.

Recommendations for the HPV vaccine — Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9 — have been expanded to boys, because of the wide range of cancers for which HPV increases risk, including cervical, anal, head and neck cancer, though a 2015 study showed vaccination rates remain relatively low, with just 57 percent of eligible girls and 35 percent of boys vaccinated.

“We are continuing to see decreases in the HPV types that are targeted by the vaccine,” Dr. Lauri Markowitz, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told CBS News. “We have seen declines in genital warts [caused by HPV] already. The next thing we expect to see is a decline in pre-cancers, then later on declines in cancer.”

For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, used survey information collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2006 and between 2009 and 2012 on females between the ages of 14 and 34.

The researchers compared prevalence of HPV between the pre-vaccine group before 2006 and post-vaccine group after the vaccine was introduced, finding HPV prevalence declined by 64 percent, from 11.5 percent to 4.3 percent, in girls between age 14 and 19, and by 34 percent, from 18.5 percent to 12.1 percent, among women age 20 to 24.

Among women aged 14 to 24, the prevalence of HPV among vaccinated women, at 2.1 percent, was also significantly lower than the 16.9 percent of unvaccinated women with the STI.

The research is based on the 4vHPV vaccine, which protects against the four most common forms, though the 9vHPV vaccine was approved by the FDA for use to prevent more forms of HPV.

Casler said data in the next several years is likely to show continuing decreases in HPV prevalence as more adolescents receive the vaccine, however some pediatricians are hesitant because of personal bias. Many parents also are nervous the vaccine will act as a message to teens that sex is OK, making some parents want to delay vaccination until their adolescents are sexually active — by which time it may be too late.

“The infection is sexually transmitted, but that doesn’t need to be part of the conversation,” Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Louisiana State University, told the New York Times. “If a parent is concerned, physicians should be prepared to talk about it. But we don’t really discuss how people become infected with every vaccine-preventable disease.”

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

February, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Oral cancer less likely in women who have more sex; but not the same for men

Source: www.parentherald.com
Author: Diane Ting

Having more sex partners reduces the chance of oral cancer for women. Unfortunately, men are more likely to become infected as the number of oral sex partners increases.

A study suggests that women who have more vaginal sex partners appear to have a lower risk of oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. The information was released during the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Throat and mouth cancer are linked to HPV, which is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases. HPV is rather common, as most people are treated of the virus within two years.

According to the study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), oral sex may increase the risk of head and neck cancer by 22 percent. In the last 20 years, the number of oral cancer patients has risen to 225 percent.

Oral cancer is typically linked to lifestyle causes such as heavy drinking and smoking, according to Mirror. Two in three sufferers of oral cancer were men, which made experts question the imbalance.

HPV is the same cancer that causes cervical cancer in women. Research states that because women are first exposed to HPV vaginally, they may develop an immune response that prevents them from getting the infection.

Unfortunately, research suggests that this may not be the same for men as they are found twice more likely to develop oral cancer. As the number of oral sex partners increase, the risk of oral HPV infections also increases. It is believed that oral sex may be the main cause at which the HPV ends up in the mouth. “Our research shows that once you become infected, men are less likely to clear this infection than women, further contributing for the cancer risk,” according to Gypsyamber D’Souza, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Oral sex can dramatically increase a person’s risk of the common human papillomavirus (HPV) by 22 times, which can eventually lead to cancer, according to a study. While HPV is very common and easily treatable, HPV may not go away in some cases particularly with men. In some rare instances, the virus can lead to cellular changes in the mouth and throat, which can lead to cancer.

Middle-aged white men are particularly at high risk compared to other races, according to Daily Mail. The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has highly recommended all pre-teenagers to take the HPV vaccination before they become sexually active.

February, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Cancer Centers urge increase in HPV vaccinations

Source: www.wsj.com
Author: Ron Winslow

The top cancer centers in the U.S. jointly called for an increase in vaccination against the human papilloma virus, or HPV, saying low uptake of the three-shot regimens amounts to a “public health threat” and a major missed opportunity to prevent a variety of potentially lethal malignancies.

In a statement issued Wednesday, all 69 of the nation’s National Cancer Institute-designated centers urged parents and health-care providers to “protect the health of our children” by taking steps to have all boys and girls complete the three-dose vaccination by their 13th birthdays, as recommended by federal guidelines, or as soon as possible in children between 13 and 17 years old.

Currently, just 40% of girls and 21% of boys in the U.S. have received the vaccine, according to a report last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 initiative has set the goal for HPV vaccination for both boys and girls at 80%.

The first HPV vaccine, Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. A second version of Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s Cervarix are now on the market. Neither company was involved in development of the cancer centers’ statement, those involved in the effort said.

The CDC estimates that 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes 14 million new infections each year. While the body’s immune system fights off the virus in most cases, certain high-risk strains are responsible for cancers of the cervix, anus, and various genital sites as well as a growing rate of oropharyngeal or throat cancers, all told affecting about 27,000 patients a year in the U.S.

“We have everything we need to eliminate at least cervix cancer and many other HPV-related cancers and we haven’t taken advantage in this country,” said Lois Ramondetta, professor of gynecologic oncology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. She said she is already seeing patients in their 20s and 30s who have developed precursors to cancer that she says could have been prevented had they been vaccinated.

The U.S. rates stand in contrast to those in some other countries, including Australia, where 75% of boys and girls are fully vaccinated; the U.K., with a rate between 84% and 92%;, and Rwanda, where 93% of children are in compliance with World Health Organization recommendations for HPV shots.

When the first vaccine hit the market a decade ago, it was targeted at girls in hopes of preventing cervix cancer. But the rising incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancers, especially among men, in recent years, led to including boys in the prevention effort as well.

Factors responsible for the low U.S. rates include resistance among antivaccination groups, a “misunderstanding” that vaccination might promote sexual activity and a reluctance of pediatricians to discuss prevention of a sexually transmitted virus for children, said Sarah Krobin, acting chief of health systems and interventions research at the NCI. Research shows no link between the vaccine and sexual activity, she said. Early administration is required because “for the vaccine to work, the child shouldn’t have yet had sex,” she said.

The three-dose vaccine can cost around $500, including doctor fees, according to the American Cancer Society, though it is often covered by insurance. It is available free to beneficiaries of the Medicaid program, a key reason why children in low-income families are more likely to have been fully vaccinated than those from wealthier families, Dr. Krobin said.

The statement emerged from a meeting of HPV experts from many of the cancer centers at MD Anderson in November, which in turn resulted from a special NCI initiative among 18 designated centers to study factors affecting HPV vaccination rates in their local markets. NCI designation recognizes centers for excellence in cancer research and care. The NCI wasn’t involved in drafting the document.

The statement urges physicians and other providers “to be advocates for cancer prevention by strongly recommending the vaccine for children. It encourages men up to age 21 and women up to 26 to get vaccinated if they missed the younger age targets.

“This is really a sentinel event to have all the centers get together and say we’re really not doing the best for our kids,” said Dr. Ramondetta, who is also co-director of MD Anderson’s HPV-related Moon Shot initiative. “We feel this is an effective, safe and long-lasting vaccine that we’re not taking advantage of.”

January, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

HPV vaccines: Research on safety, racial disparities in vaccination rates and male participation

Source: journalistsresource.us1.list-manage.com
Author: staff

Since it became available in the United States in 2006, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been a source of debate, with proponents lauding it as a substantial gain in the fight against cancer, and opponents concerned with its implications for sexual activity among youth. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Gardasil-9 — a vaccine that protects against nine of the most common strains of HPV that account for approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers — there is both a renewed interest and concern that calls for a nuanced and comprehensive review of the science.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with nearly all sexually active men and women believed to contract at least one form of it during their lifetime. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 79 million Americans have HPV, and about 14 million become newly infected annually. While most infections clear the body within two years, some can persist and result in genital warts, cervical cancer or other types of cancers in men and women. Of the many HPV strains that exist, HPV types 16 and 18 have been identified as high risk, accounting for about 70 percent of all cervical cancer, as well as a large proportion of other HPV-related cancers.

While cervical cancer was previously a leading cause of death among women in the U.S., death rates declined substantially after the introduction of the Pap test in the 1950s. Nevertheless, according to the CDC, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 die from it. Public discourse around HPV tends to focus on the health of women because they disproportionately bear the burden of its health consequences. However, men also face substantial risk, particularly as it relates to oral and anal cancers.

Although screening procedures are in place for early detection of cervical cancer, there are no comparable strategies to identify HPV-related cancer in its early stages for men. Consequently, the administration of a vaccine to prevent infection and transmission presents an important line of protection. Currently, the HPV vaccine is administered over a course of three injections, which must be completed within six months to confer full protection. A 2012 review of clinical trials of HPV vaccines shows that vaccines designed to protect against two or four of the most common strains have very high efficacy rates, ranging between 90 percent and 100 percent. For that reason, large public health efforts have focused on improving vaccination rates before boys and girls become sexually active.

Today, both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine vaccination against HPV for all 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds in the U.S. Although the early age of vaccination has been a source of public debate, medical recommendations are based partly on evidence that shows that antibody responses are highest during this age period. Also, it is a good idea to vaccinate adolescents before they come into contact with the virus as the vaccine is not effective against HPV types that already have been acquired. Despite such recommendations from medical professionals, vaccination completion rates remain low — 40 percent for girls and 20 percent for boys in 2014. That is substantially lower than the vaccination rate for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and the vaccination rate for meningitis among members of the same age group.

Below are a series of studies that will help journalists understand and explain this important health topic from a variety of angles, including vaccine safety and racial and gender disparities in vaccination rates. Beat reporters can find related reports and statistics from organizations such as the CDC, National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization.

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Barriers to vaccination

“Reasons for Not Vaccinating Adolescents: National Immunization Survey of Teens, 2008-2010”
Darden, P.M.; et al. Pediatrics, April 2013, Vol. 131. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2384.

Summary: Using data from the National Immunization Survey of Teens, researchers found that parental intentions to not vaccinate for HPV increased from 39.8 percent in 2008 to 43.9 percent in 2010. The most commonly cited reasons for not vaccinating were “not recommended/needed,” “not sexually active,” and “safety concerns/side effects.” Vaccine safety concerns increased from 4.5 percent in 2008 to 16.4 percent in 2010.

“Barriers to Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Among US Adolescents: A Systematic Review of the Literature”
Holman, D.M.; et al. JAMA Pediatrics, January 2014, Vol. 168. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2752.

Summary: “Health care professionals cited financial concerns and parental attitudes and concerns as barriers to providing the HPV vaccine to patients. Parents often reported needing more information before vaccinating their children. Concerns about the vaccine’s effect on sexual behavior, low perceived risk of HPV infection, social influences, irregular preventive care, and vaccine cost were also identified as potential barriers among parents.”

Vaccine safety

“Adverse Events Following Immunization in Ontario’s Female School-Based HPV Program”
Harris, T.; Williams, D.M.; Feiurek, J.; Scott, T.; Deeks, S.L. Vaccine, January 2014, Vol. 32. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.01.004.

Summary: After a school-based HPV vaccination program was implemented among eighth grade girls in Ontario, Canada, researchers analyzed reports of adverse events following immunization over the following four years. From 2007 to 2011, nearly 700,000 HPV vaccine doses were administered and 133 confirmed cases of adverse events were reported. The most commonly reported side effects included allergic reactions (25 percent), rashes (22 percent), reactions at the injection site (20 percent), and non-specific “other events” (26 percent). Ten serious cases were identified, which included two cases of anaphylaxis, two seizures, one thrombocytopenia, and one death, which was concluded by the coroner to be due to a previously undiagnosed cardiac condition. Ultimately, the researchers conclude that the findings are in line with existing evidence on the safety profile of the HPV vaccine, and no new safety concerns were identified.

“Safety of Human Papillomavirus Vaccines: A Review”
Macartney, K.K.; Chiu, C.; Georgousakis, M.; Brotherton, J.M.L. Drug Safety, June 2013, Vol. 36. doi: 10.1007/s40264-013-0039-5.

Abstract: “Both vaccines are associated with relatively high rates of injection site reactions, particularly pain, but this is usually of short duration and resolves spontaneously. Systemic reactions have generally been mild and self-limited. Post vaccination syncope has occurred, but can be avoided with appropriate care. Serious vaccine-attributable adverse events, such as anaphylaxis, are rare, and although not recommended for use in pregnancy, abnormal pregnancy outcomes following inadvertent administration do not appear to be associated with vaccination. HPV vaccines are used in a three-dose schedule predominantly in adolescent females: as such, case reports linking vaccination with a range of new onset chronic conditions, including autoimmune diseases, have been made. However, well-conducted population-based studies show no association between HPV vaccine and a range of such conditions.”

Disparities in vaccination rates

“Racial/Ethnic and Poverty Disparities in Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Completion”
Niccolai, L.M.; Mehta, N.R.; Hadler, J.L. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2011, Vol. 41. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.032.

Abstract: “Data from the 2008-2009 National Immunization Survey-Teen for girls aged 13-17 years who received at least one dose of HPV vaccine (n=7606) were analyzed in 2010-2011. During this 2-year period, 55 percent of adolescent girls who initiated vaccination completed the three-dose series. Completion was significantly higher in 2009 (60 percent) compared to 2008 (48 percent; p<0.001). After controlling for covariates, adolescents who were black or Hispanic were significantly less likely to complete vaccination than whites. Adolescents living below the federal poverty level were significantly less likely to complete vaccination than adolescents with household incomes >$75,000.”

“Social Inequalities in Adolescent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: A Test of Fundamental Cause Theory”
Polonijo, A.N.; Carpiano, R.M. Social Science & Medicine, April 2013, Vol. 82. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.12.020.

Abstract: “Analyses of 2008, 2009, and 2010 United States National Immunization Survey-Teen data (n = 41,358) reveal disparities particularly for vaccine knowledge and receipt of a health professional recommendation. While parental knowledge is a prerequisite to adolescent vaccine uptake, low socioeconomic status (SES) and racial/ethnic minority parents have significantly lower odds of knowing about the vaccine. Receipt of a health professional’s recommendation to vaccinate is strongly associated with vaccine uptake, however the odds of receiving a recommendation are negatively associated with low SES and black racial/ethnic status.”

“Sociodemographic Differences in Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Initiation by Adolescent Males”
Agawu, A.; et al. Journal of Adolescent Health, November 2015, Vol. 57. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.07.002.

Summary: Researchers studied patterns of HPV vaccination among a sample of 58,757 adolescent males between the ages of 11 and 18 in a large primary care network. Results showed that African American males with private health insurance were twice as likely to initiate vaccination than White males with private insurance, while African American males on Medicaid were nearly three times more likely. Similar trends were observed among Hispanic males. The authors conclude that, “although the true mechanism underlying these differences remains unknown, potential candidates include provider recommendation patterns and differential vaccine acceptance within these groups.”

HPV vaccine and young males

“HPV Vaccination Coverage of Male Adolescents in the United States”
Lu, P.J.; et al. Pediatrics, October 2015, Vol. 136. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1631.

Summary: Researchers used data from the 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen to investigate trends in HPV vaccination of adolescent boys. Findings revealed low rates of both vaccine uptake (34.6 percent) and completion (13.9 percent), however African American and Hispanic males were more likely to receive the vaccine than their White peers. In order to improve vaccination coverage, the authors conclude that a comprehensive approach is needed which includes physicians regularly assessing their patient’s vaccination status, educating doctors about current HPV vaccine recommendations as well as information on vaccine efficacy and safety, reducing costs, and improving health communication strategies to dispel misinformation about the vaccine.

“Longitudinal Predictors of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Among a National Sample of Adolescent Males”
Reiter, P.L.; et al. American Journal of Public Health, August 2013, Vol. 103. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301189.

Abstract: “In fall 2010 and 2011, a national sample of parents with sons aged 11 to 17 years (n = 327) and their sons (n = 228) completed online surveys to identify predictors of HPV vaccination. Only 2 percent of sons had received any doses of HPV vaccine at baseline, with an increase to 8 percent by follow-up. About 55 percent of parents who had ever received a doctor’s recommendation to get their sons HPV vaccine did vaccinate between baseline and follow-up, compared with only 1 percent of parents without a recommendation. Willingness to get sons the HPV vaccine decreased from baseline to follow-up among both parents and sons.”

“Acceptability of Human Papillomavirus Vaccine for Males: A Review of the Literature”
Liddon, N.; Hood, J.; Wynn, B.A.; Markowitz, L.E. Journal of Adolescent Health, February 2010, Vol. 46. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.199.

Abstract: “Among mothers of sons, support of HPV vaccination varied widely from 12 percent to 100 percent, depending on the mother’s ethnicity and type of vaccine, but was generally high for a vaccine that would protect against both genital warts and cervical cancer. Health providers’ intention to recommend HPV vaccine to male patients varied by patient age but was high (82 percent-92 percent) for older adolescent patients. A preference to vaccinate females over males was reported in a majority of studies among parents and health care providers. Messages about cervical cancer prevention for female partners did not resonate among adult males or parents. Future acceptability studies might incorporate more recent data on HPV-related disease, HPV vaccines, and cost-effectiveness data to provide more current information on vaccine acceptability.”

“Parents’ Decisions About HPV Vaccine for Sons: The Importance of Protecting Sons’ Future Female Partners”
Schuler, C.L.; DeSousa, N.S.; Coyne-Beasley, T. Journal of Community Health, October 2014, Vol. 39. doi: 10.1007/s10900-014-9859-1.

Abstract: “76 percent of parents reported vaccine decisions for sons were likely to be influenced by preventing HPV transmission from sons to their female partners. Parents likely to be influenced by female partner protection in vaccine decisions had greater intention to vaccinate sons than their counterparts (adjusted odds ratio 2.54). Because parents likely to consider female partners had increased intention to vaccinate sons, future efforts to improve vaccine uptake in boys should explore the benefits of highlighting potential female partner protection, as this concept may resonate with many parents.”

January, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Throat and tongue cancers linked to sexually transmitted virus on the rise

Source: www.theage.com.au
Author: Julia Medew

The sexual revolution is producing a new wave of throat and tongue cancers among middle-aged people, who are falling victim to a rare side effect of the “common cold of sexually transmitted infections”.

A growing number of Australians with oropharyngeal cancer are testing positive to the human papillomavirus (HPV), suggesting it has caused their disease rather than smoking or heavy drinking – factors responsible for many head and neck cancers in the past. Oropharyngeal cancer is usually found in the back third of the tongue or the tonsils. In 2014, about 125 Victorians were diagnosed with it. Most were men.

An Australian study of 515 patients diagnosed with the condition between 1987 and 2010 found that the proportion of people with an HPV-related diagnosis increased from 20 per cent between 1987 and 1995 to 64 per cent between 2006 and 2010. Over the same period, the proportion of people diagnosed with throat cancer who had never smoked increased from 19 per cent to 34 per cent, suggesting HPV may overtake smoking and drinking as a cause of the cancer in future.

American doctors say more oral sex following the sexual revolution of the 1960s probably spread HPV to more people’s mouths and throats. Actor Michael Douglas said he believed oral sex was to blame for his HPV-related throat cancer in 2013. But Dr Matthew Magarey​, an ear nose and throat surgeon at Epworth and Peter MacCallum hospitals in Melbourne, said while HPV-related throat cancers were occurring in more people aged 40 to 60, it should not necessarily be associated with oral sex because scientists believe HPV may be transmitted through kissing or simple hand to mouth contact as well.

Up to 80 per cent of the adult population is thought to have had some sort of HPV infection during their life (there are more than 100 strains) and most of them will not have experience any symptoms. Many people clear the virus within months of getting it.

Dr Magarey said a tiny proportion of people will get an HPV-related cancer, such as cervical, anal, or throat cancer. He said HPV in the throat probably took 30 to 40 years to turn into a cancer in the minority of people it affects in that way. He said treatments were getting better for the cancer, which has a high survival rate if found early. Depending on the circumstances of the cancer, radiation, chemotherapy and sometimes surgery are used to treat it. While the surgery has been long and complicated in the past, Dr Magarey said a new robotic procedure available at Peter Mac and Epworth was helping surgeons remove cancers more precisely and in less time. This was reducing long-term recovery problems such as difficulty eating and drinking and swallowing.

Dr Magarey said the most common first sign of throat cancer was a lump in the neck that persists for more than two or three weeks. Symptoms can also include a sore throat that persists for more than three weeks and difficulty swallowing.

“If you have these symptoms, see your GP and get a referral to a qualified ENT surgeon who can properly examine the throat. Just looking in the mouth is not enough,” he said.

Dr Marcus Chen, a sexual health specialist with Alfred Health, said the Australian government’s HPV Gardasil vaccination program for young people will reduce such cancers in future. In the meantime, he said testing for HPV – the “common cold of sexually transmitted infections” – was not recommended because there is no way of treating the virus or preventing it from being passed on to others.

October, 2015|Oral Cancer News|

Three things you might not know about HPV

Source: www.huffingtonpost.ca
Author: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

April 26 to May 2 is National Immunization Awareness week in Canada. One immunization known for raising a lot of questions is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, provided free of charge in Ontario to girls in grades 8-12, and following provincial schedules across the country.

n-HPV-VACCINE-large

While there is lots of information online, at school and at the doctor’s office about HPV, there is still a lot of confusion about what it may mean for your loved ones. Dr. Nancy Durand, gynecologist at Sunnybrook, explains three little-known facts about HPV.

1) HPV causes cancer in men, too
When Michael Douglas candidly revealed his oral cancer was caused by HPV, many people expressed surprise.

Even though HPV has traditionally been thought of as a disease that affects women and mainly causes cervical cancer, men are actually at higher risk of being diagnosed with certain types of HPV-positive cancers than women.

“It’s not well understood why men are at higher risk for HPV-positive oral cancer, but it does point out that vaccination in men is even more important than we may have previously thought,” says Dr. Durand. Physicians are learning more and more that HPV can also cause other cancers in both women and men, such as anal cancers and head & neck cancers (cancers of the base of the tongue, tonsils and soft palate).

2) Not all HPV infections lead to cancer
You’ve probably read some of the (slightly scary) statistics about HPV: Three in four Canadians will get HPV in their lifetime. It can lead to a variety of cancers and cause genital warts, and there is no cure. But should this keep you up at night, worrying about the potentially deadly consequences of HPV?

Hardly, says Dr. Durand. “Most people who are infected with this virus will clear it — probably 80 per cent of people. It’s the other 20 per cent of people with a persistent infection who may be at risk of cancer, and it’s still only a very small percentage of those people who may go on to develop cancer,” she says.

Many people never even realize they’ve had an HPV infection, as there are usually no symptoms, and the infection often goes away on its own.

3) You’re never too old to get the HPV vaccine
What if you didn’t get the HPV vaccine back in middle school, and now you think it’s too late to get it?

“Regardless of your age and your onset of sexual activity, we can vaccinate both men and women, and we can see a reduction in disease,” says Dr. Durand.

It’s actually not too late — the vaccine can still be effective, even in adults who’ve already been sexually active. “Many people think vaccination can only be done before the onset of sexual activity. But regardless of your age and your onset of sexual activity, we can vaccinate both men and women, and we can see a reduction in disease,” says Dr. Durand.

Anyone, male or female, over the age of nine can be vaccinated. So, if you’ve put off getting the vaccine because you thought you were too old, it’s not too late!

Note: Co-authored by Sybil Millar, Communication Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

April, 2015|Oral Cancer News|