HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), is marketed by Merck, usually for vaccination of teenage girls (with an increasing number of boys). The vaccine prevents the transmission of certain types (pdf) of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and caused most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These cancers, mostly related to HPV, can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection from ever happening, which usually happens through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. Approximately 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20’s, are infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become infected each year in the USA. Continue reading “Study shows HPV vaccine lowers HPV infection risk in teen girls”
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I was going to put some snarky comment in the title like, “but wait, what about the statistics.” Because we know that this isn’t a good decision, and that the vaccine deniers will be all over it like Mr. Andy Wakefield’s fraudulent and retracted study claiming that vaccines cause autism. But let’s move on to what happened.
The health ministry decided June 14 to withdraw its recommendation for a vaccination to protect girls against cervical cancer after hundreds complained about possible side effects, including long-term pain and numbness.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is not suspending the use of the vaccination, but it has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while studies are conducted on the matter.
So far, an estimated 3.28 million people have received the vaccination. However, 1,968 cases of possible side effects, including body pain, have been reported.
The ministry’s task force discussed 43 of those cases. However, a cause-and-effect relationship between the vaccination and the pain and numbness could not be established, so the task force members called for further studies by the ministry.
The ministry’s investigation is expected to take several months. It will then decide whether to reinstate or continue to withhold its recommendation for the vaccination.
So, the health ministry is going to withhold recommendation of the HPV vaccination because they notice 43 cases for which they couldn’t establish a causal relationship to the vaccine. In other words, 0.0013% of cases, a number so small that it’s pretty close to impossible to affix any statistical significance to it. In fact, random background “noise” (that is that some whole body pain could be expected in any random sampling of vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals) of this type of observation is as plausible as correlation (let alone causation) to the vaccine. In fact, the Health Ministry failed to provide us with data concerning the level of these side effects in the general population. Nor how soon after vaccination. Nor anything potentially useful in a scientific analysis.
What’s worse is that, according to the same article, about 2700 women in Japan die every year from HPV related cancers. So, because of complaints from the antivaccination lunatics in Japan (didn’t know they had any, but I shouldn’t be surprised), and bad statistics (43 potential cases of “body pain” out of 3,280,000 vaccinations), the Health Ministry stops recommending the vaccine. Exactly what were these people thinking?
Finally, let’s be clear here. The vaccine hasn’t been pulled from the market nor has it been outlawed; teenagers can still get the vaccine. And this was a very unusual move, since only 3 years ago, Japan’s parliament added the HPV vaccine to the mandatory schedule. Hopefully, this committee will look at the numbers from a statistical and scientific point of view and fix this stupidity.
By the way, the World Health Organization still recommends the HPV vaccine. Because the HPV vaccine saves lives by preventing future cervical cancers.
- Retraction–Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 2010 Feb 6;375(9713):445. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4. PubMed PMID: 20137807.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is an American environmental organization founded in 1969 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which claims 400,000 members. They focus, generally, on environmental issues like nuclear power, global warming and a few other issues. Many of these issues are critically important, and a science advocacy group like UCS helps keep the scientific facts about global warming and other environmental issues at the forefront of the discussion.
But one area where UCS has gone off the rails of scientific evidence and embraces generally left wing science denialism is agriculture, more specifically GMO, or genetically modified organisms (or in this case crops). They are generally supportive of organic farming (which has little or no health benefit at a high cost to consumers) and vehemently opposed to GMO crops, based on what appears to be the same bad scientific critical skills that we observe in global warming deniers. There is nothing more frustrating than dogmatic science that stands against evidence. Continue reading “Do GMO crops have a higher yield? It depends on the answer.”
Potential causes for cancer are numerous. Infections. Radon gas. Cigarette smoking. Sun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes. Although many causes can be easily eliminated, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. In fact, some hereditary cancers, such as those individuals who carry genes that are implicated in breast and ovarian cancers, may not be preventable at all.
Other than eliminating direct risks, are there things that can be done to actually prevent “cancer”? Once again, with over 200 types of cancer, this may be an impossibility, but the two most popular cancer prevention ideas are supplements and nutrition. Vitamins and other supplements are a $61 billion industry in the US. They generate these sales with minimal regulation, minimal quality control over the quality and dosage, and no requirement to actually provide evidence that the supplements do what is claimed by the supplement industry, aka Big Herbal. The FDA only gets involved with the industry if there’s some dangerous side effect, or when the claims of the industry are so outrageous that the FDA has no choice but to get involved. Continue reading “Folic acid supplements and cancer–myth vs. science”
Vaccines are one of the most important and crucial aspects for the long-term health of babies and young children. Except for a tiny, and irresponsible, minority of individuals who are opposed to vaccinations, greater than 95% of children are fully vaccinated for most vaccine preventable diseases by kindergarten. Unfortunately, a recently published article in Pediatrics provided evidence that teens are not keeping up with vaccinations that are critical to avoid infections from serious, and deadly, diseases. The study examines how vaccination rates have changed over the three year study period, and some of the reasons why they are not getting vaccinated. Continue reading “Survey identifies reasons for not vaccinating teens”
I get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.
Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:
I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil. As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical. I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-Gardasil. Continue reading “I get an email about Gardasil”
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus from the papillomavirus family that is capable of infecting humans. Like all papillomaviruses, HPVs establish productive infections only in keratinocytes of the skin or mucous membranes, making it easily transmitted sexually or through other intimate contact. While the majority of the known types of HPV cause no symptoms in most people, some types can cause warts (verrucae). HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers. The HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), is marketed by Merck. The vaccine prevents the transmission of certain types of HPV, specifically types 6, 11, 16 and 18.
Although the safety of HPV vaccine has been thoroughly vetted for safety in studies with large cohorts, the long time period (up to decades) from infection to a diagnosis of an HPV-related cancer has left questions about how to maximize effectiveness of the vaccine which required further research. Continue reading “HPV–early vaccination maximizes effectiveness”
You’ve probably seen their commercials spread over all of the major TV networks. Beautiful scenes. Well-kept hospitals which often to appear to be near empty. And an anecdote or two or three from presumably real patients who describe their experience at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a private, for-profit operator of cancer treatment hospitals and outpatient clinics which provide both conventional and alternative medical treatments. Included in their treatment plans are chiropractic and naturopathy, neither of which have any evidence whatsoever in providing any healthcare benefit to patients, let alone those suffering from cancer.
Reuters recently published an in-depth report on the validity of the claims that are made by CTCA in its advertising. Here are some of the ones specifically mentioned:
- For breast cancer, CTCA claims that its survival rate after 3.5 years post-diagnosis is about 42%, compared to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) Program result (more or less a nationwide average) of about 29%. That’s a 13% improvement.
- For prostate cancer, CTCA claims that its 4 year survival rate is 20 points higher.
- For advanced colon cancer, CTCA claims that its 1.5 year survival rate is 11 points higher. Continue reading “Cancer Treatment Centers of America advertising”
One of my favorite topics to debunk is the use of supplements to prevent (or worse yet, cure) cancer. As I have discussed in the past, supplements are, with just a couple of exceptions, worthless in preventing cancer.
Potential causes for cancer are numerous. Infections. Radon gas. Cigarette smoking. Sun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes for “cancer.” Although many causes of cancer can be easily avoided, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer.
But because cancer is so frightening, and treating it is risky, debilitating and, in some cases, fruitless, we look for the easy solution, the easy prevention with a pill. But the evidence science has found indicates that this doesn’t really work. Of course, according to 2012 cancer statistics, 577,000 people died of various cancers in 2012, and about 160,000 died directly as a result of smoking (or second hand smoking). So, you can easily drop your risk dying of cancer by more than 25% just by quitting smoking. Otherwise, it’s just not that simple. Continue reading “Vitamin D reduces breast cancer risk–is there anything to it?”
I’ve never been a fan of vitamin supplements. Aside from a very few supplements intended for a few specific clinical conditions, like vitamin C and scurvy, they have little use in preventing or treating diseases. In fact, because mammalian physiology has evolved a homeostasis for these chemicals, any excess amount that can’t be stored in the fat or other tissue is cleared by the kidneys and becomes part of your urine. I’m willing to venture that the urine of many Americans is quite expensive, with all of the cleared vitamins and other micronutrients. A balanced diet over several weeks is sufficient to provide the body with all of the nutrients and vitamins to be healthy and strong. You are not even required to have all vitamins and nutrients every day, as storage of a few nutrients will be released as necessary, and clinical manifestations of nutrient deficiency may take weeks or months.