There are lots of quacks out on the internet that make all kinds of nonsense claims about how to prevent cancer. Eat blueberries. Eat kale. Eat GMO-free, organic blueberry kale soy sherbet.
I’ll bet there are thousands of claims made by charlatans to prevent cancer. But really, there are just a handful of ways to actually prevent cancer. Avoid tobacco smoke. Avoid the sun. Keep a healthy low weight. Avoid alcohol.
And get the HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil. Yes, Gardasil prevents cancer (actually, there are two, the other being the hepatitis B vaccine, but we’ll get to that in another article).
Now, there is even more evidence, from a huge research study, that supports the fact that Gardasil prevents cancer in young women.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA. There are more than 40 HPV sub-types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. Additionally, some HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
HPV is linked to cancers in men and women, and because there are so many subtypes, research has established which HPV types are linked to certain cancers. Cervical, vulvar, vaginal, oropharyngeal, penile, and anal cancers can be caused by by one or more of the 40 sub-types of HPV. (For more information about the specific HPV sub-types that cause each of these cancers, please see this article.)
HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous with regards to cancer as tobacco. According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. About 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.
What is the HPV vaccine?
The original HPV quadrivalent vaccine, known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), can prevent infection by human papillomavirus, substantially reducing the risk of these types of cancers. An HPV bivalent vaccine, known as Cervarix, is used in some countries, but only provides protection again two of the subtypes most associated with cervical cancer.
The new version of Gardasil, recently cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration, protects teens and young adults from 9 subtypes of HPV, helping prevent more cancers.
So what’s this new study?
In a recent population-based retrospective cohort epidemiological study, published in the journal Pediatrics, involving 260,000 teenage girls, has determined that young girls aged 14 benefit substantially from the HPV vaccine. It was found that Gardasil protected these young women from sexually transmitted viruses that caused cervical cancer. Moreover, the vaccine appears to most effective in girls that are already sexually active.
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The researchers found that Canadian girls in grades 8 and 9 who received the Gardasil vaccination had a “large and significant reduction” in incidents of cervical dysplasia – an abnormal precancerous lesion that is caused by HPV – in those girls who had progressed to grades 10-12. Additionally, the teenage girls were also found to suffer less genital warts, a condition that is caused by HPV.
Cervical dysplasia and genital warts can happen as soon as a girl becomes sexually active, more or less,. Some parents have been delaying vaccination for their daughters until they’re older, because they don’t think they are sexually active. These results show this age group is sexually active and they are at risk. The vaccine really needs to be given before the girls are at risk.”
The study provides important evidence supporting the claim that Gardasil prevents cancer:
- Vaccinated girls had a 44% reduction in risk of cervical dysplasia compared to unvaccinated girls. And this is in a huge pool of 260,000 girls, so the statistics are beyond reproach.
- Vaccinated girls had a 43% reduction in risk of genital warts.
- These results were observed after a very short period of time, around three years post-vaccination. This is pretty close to slam-dunk data that Gardasil can prevent cancers in younger women (and probably younger men too) along with preventing cancers in women who enter middle age.
Note to the conspiracy crowd. This study was sponsored by the Ontario provincial government, who had no role in the design of the study or the analysis of data. But the Ontario Ministry of Health gave the money.
The authors wrote the most powerful conclusion possible:
This study provides new, strong evidence of the impact of qHPV vaccination on reductions in cervical dysplasia among adolescent girls.
Gardasil prevents cancer – what else needs to be said?
- Smith LM, Strumpf EC, Kaufman JS, Lofters A, Schwandt M, Lévesque LE. The early benefits of human papillomavirus vaccination on cervical dysplasia and anogenital warts. Pediatrics. 2015 May;135(5):e1131-40. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2961. PubMed PMID: 25917991.