If you’ve been cruising Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ lately, you’d have seen some breathless headlines claiming that Israeli scientists have discovered a miracle cure for cancer. And it will be ready in one year.
What a load of rubbish, balderdash, codswallop, claptrap, and nonsense.
I’d end the article right there because nothing more really needs to be written. But you come here for the snark, but stay for the science. Or come here for the science, and stay for the snark. Either way, I need to spend a few minutes of your time, and a couple of thousand words, to put this pile of equine excrement into a waste pit.
Back in May 2018, I wrote an analysis of a new HPV vaccine systematic review that clearly showed that not only was the HPV vaccine very safe, but it was also effective in significantly reducing the risks of cervical cancer. This was powerful and robust evidence that the HPV vaccine is one of the best tools in reducing HPV-related cancers. And that the vaccine is extremely safe, possibly the safest of all the very safe vaccines on the market.
The idea of SBM is …to answer the question “what works?” we must give more importance to our cumulative scientific knowledge from all relevant disciplines.
Now I’ve said that systematic reviews are not perfect. For example, the Cochrane Database is considered one of the premier organizations that perform systematic and meta-reviews in the biomedical sciences. If I am looking to determine if there is evidence supporting a medical claim, I look there first. As a scientist, I don’t take their conclusions at face value – for example, they have made egregious errors in systematic reviews of acupuncture quackery in the past. Like all scientific literature, one must examine a systematic review (whether published in Cochrane or any other journal) with a critical eye. Is there bias in including or excluding data? Do they overstate the conclusion? Do they rely upon unusual or bad statistical analyses?
I have said this before, and I am becoming slowly convinced of my opinion on the matter – the anti-vaccine religion has a particular hatred for the HPV vaccine, usually Gardasil, that far exceeds its abhorrence of most other vaccines. Recently, Slate, generally a reliable source for vaccine articles, published an anti-vaccine screed against Gardasil that seems to be based on a claim of faulty HPV vaccine clinical trials.
As a result of some expected negative comments made about the article, Slate took the unusual step of trying to explain itself. I am not sure that they have gotten very far, even if the author of the explanation claims that they would get the Gardasil anti-cancer again. But they really have concerns about the HPV vaccine clinical trials.
Well, I do not have those issues regarding the HPV vaccine clinical trials. First, the author of the original article is simply an amateur about science, clinical trials, and statistics. The author was trying to create doubt about the Gardasil vaccine based on misunderstanding, at best.
Second, the author fails to grasp that vaccines are constantly monitored by post-marketing studies that often include huge numbers of patients, which can find very rare instances of adverse effects. In these studies, nothing was found that tied Gardasil to anything serious, short of fainting by patients after getting the shot, a common occurrence with patients.
Third, the author relies on anecdotal evidence, which has zero value in scientific understanding. This is a serious issue that should have cause Slate to back off from the article.
Anecdotes are a fundamental part of the anti-vaccine propaganda machine. We have a tendency to overstate the importance of anecdotes, because they usually have an emotional appeal to them. Anecdotes are not data, not even close. At best, they are observations, but they give no indication of temporal correlation, let alone causality.
HPV vaccine anecdotes have become part of the discourse about Gardasil and other HPV vaccines. It has become full-time job just to debunk the myths that arise from a handful of anecdotes.
I have written on a number of articles about the HPV cancer-prevention vaccines, Gardasil, Cervarix and Silgard. These vaccines prevent infection by up to 9 different types of genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA.
The virus is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is very easy to transmit, and according to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year.
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. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. And about 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.