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The HPV Immunization Really Does Prevent Cancer- We Now Know

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

HPV Infection is Common

Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) is an extremely common virus.  The HPV’s cause all the warts we have, wherever they show up.  And so across a lifetime it is likely that nearly everyone has been infected with one of the many HPV’s that infect us.

But not all HPV’s are equally problematic.  Only a handful focus their infection on one part of our body, our genital, and these HPV’s cause all genital warts.

Far, far more people have infection with the genital HPV’s than have genital warts.  Prior to HPV immunization, the majority, in fact large majorities of adults, have genital HPV infections, in some series as many as 75% of adults have genital HPV!  This makes genital HPV by far the most common STD or STI (sexually transmitted disease or infection)

HPV Infection Causes Cancer

Given that for most groups of American adults, most of us have genital HPV infection, it may come as a surprise that these viruses clearly cause cancer.

But they do.

In women, most cancers of the tip of the uterus are caused by genital  HPV.

In men, we see genital HPV causing cancer of the penis and throat.  HPV caused throat cancer in men in the US now actually causes more death than HPV caused cervical cancer in women!

If HPV Infection is Common and Causes Cancer, How well Does the HPV Immunization Prevent Cancer?

Most everyone has heard of the HPV immunization, but so many have heard confusing information crafted to raise worries.

Maybe the HPV immunization causes serious side effects, maybe it doesn’t work, but what are the facts?

Two facts need to be presented and known:

  1. The HPV immunization has been given to millions of children and adolescents and found to be extremely safe, really no different than other common immunizations like the tetanus shot.
  2. Yes, HPV immunization does work.  Many recent studies find children and adolescents immunized have far less genital HPV infection.

Now comes a major article on the impact of HPV immunization on the actual chance of women developing cervical cancer over a many year period of follow-up.

Here is the article:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1917338?query=featured_home

And here is the astounding result of this study

 

Take a moment to look at this graph.

The brown line shows the chance of a person being hit by invasive cervical cancer, the type that kills people, if not immunized with HPV immunization at all, note how the risk climbs so dramatically!

The dashed blue line shows the risk of the same deadly cancer if someone got the HPV immunization after age 16, from ages 17-30.  These women suffered much less chance of the deadly cancer, but their risk still rose over time.

Now look at the green line, it shows the chance of women developing deadly invasive cervical cancer if they got the HPV immunization at age 16 or earlier, before age 17.  What do you see?   A line that shows almost no one developed the deadly cancer.  

BOTTOM LINES

  1. HPV is an extremely common virus.  Even its genital form, prior to the HPV immunization, was very, very common.
  2. The genital forms of HPV can cause cancer, usually in people whose HPV infection is causing NO symptoms.
  3. The HPV immunization is safe.
  4. We now know, give the HPV immunization by age 16 and we can nearly eliminate a very deadly cancer.

Imagine- a short series of immunizations (two if started by 14, three if at 15 years old), ending the threat of a deadly cancer!

To your health,
Dr. Lavin

 

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