Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths

Gardasil safety and efficacy

There was an article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself. Some of the reasons why the HPV vaccine uptake is so low is a result of several myths about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading “Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths”

Japan bans Gardasil – debunking myths about the HPV vaccine

Japan bans Gardasil

One of the most popular zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccination movement is that Japan bans Gardasil – oh noes! Of course, like a lot of the junk information passed along by the anti-vaccine crowd, it’s completely false, unless you’re willing to take anything they say on faith.

There are a couple of consistent trends in the anti-vaccine movement. They claim that vaccines cause autism (disproved with the highest quality of evidence); and they maintain that the HPV vaccines cause all kinds of harm to teens and young adults. And there are literally mountains of data derived from numerous huge epidemiological studies that the Gardasil cancer preventing vaccine is one of the safest vaccines on the market (and that’s a high bar to exceed, given the high safety profiles of all vaccines).

So if you really want to prevent cancer, one of the best ways available to you is getting the HPV vaccine. The idea is so simple, yet is clouded by the myths about HPV vaccines – one of the most popular, of course, is that Japan bans Gardasil. Let’s examine this fable with a critical and skeptical eye.

The tl;dr version – Japan did no such thing.

Continue reading “Japan bans Gardasil – debunking myths about the HPV vaccine”

Diane Harper supports HPV vaccine – and she published it

diane harper

A few years ago, Dr. Diane Harper was the darling of the anti-vaccine world, for two reasons. First, she was one of the researchers who performed clinical trials for Gardasil. And second, she appeared to be against HPV vaccines, specifically Gardasil.

But the story was much more nuanced.  I argued that her publication record presented a much different picture – she actually supported the vaccine. But typical of the zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccine world, every few months it’s breathless reported that Dr. Harper is opposed to Gardasil.

Recently, she published another article about HPV vaccines, and if there’s any doubt that she is in favor of HPV vaccines, that is gone. But that probably won’t stop the anti-vaccine crowd.

Continue reading “Diane Harper supports HPV vaccine – and she published it”

HPV and prostate cancer – meta-analysis shows link

HPV and prostate cancer

It has been well established that human papilloma virus (HPV) is closely linked to numerous cancers. Recently, evidence has been uncovered that show a link between HPV and prostate cancer. This provides us with more evidence that preventing these infections with the HPV vaccine can lead to a reduction in many types of cancers in both men and women.


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Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher – what are the facts?

Diane Harper

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or Italian provincial courts to make their case about the lack of safety of vaccines. One of the latest ones involves a so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck (and GSK, who manufacturers Cervarix, a bivalent HPV vaccine), who apparently had some research role in the clinical trials of the HPV vaccines. But what are the facts?

It’s rather easy to debunk these claims, but because of the nature of the internet, old news is recycled as “brand new,” requiring a whole new round of blog posts to discredit the misinformation. It’s impossible to recall one single instance where a vaccine refuser made a statement about vaccines that was not, in fact, rather quickly debunked. Not one.

The pro-children’s health side, those of us who think that vaccines save lives, have been winning the hearts and minds for awhile, given that still around 95% of children in the USA get all of their immunizations prior to entering kindergarten. But that doesn’t stop the refusers from trying, because various zombie anti-vaccination memes keep reappearing, especially since the successful pro-vaccine bill was signed into law in California, keep infiltrating the internets.

Let’s take a look at the story and see what we find.

Continue reading “Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher – what are the facts?”

Gardasil prevents cancer – evidence for oral cancer protection

Gardasil prevents cancer

According to recent studies from the CDC, only about 63% of teen girls and 50% of teen boys have started the HPV vaccination series. The relatively low vaccine uptake, despite the evidence that Gardasil prevents cancer, one of the few ways to actually prevent cancer, is especially frustrating to those of us who are supporters of the vaccine. However, new data that Gardasil prevents cancer may drive acceptance for the vaccine – new research appears to show that the HPV vaccine may protect against head and neck cancers.

Gardasil 9, the most current version of the vaccine, was approved to protect against cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers in females along with anal cancers in males – if it is also shown to prevent oropharyngeal cancers (and eventually gets new indications after FDA review), maybe that can increase the lagging HPV vaccination rates.


Continue reading “Gardasil prevents cancer – evidence for oral cancer protection”

Human papillomavirus infection – puts one-quarter of Americans at high risk for cancer

human papillomavirus infection

I keep making the same point over and over again, so I hope I don’t bore my regular readers. There are so few ways to actually prevent cancer, and one of the best is to prevent an HPV or human papillomavirus infection, with an underused vaccine. This simple vaccine can prevent so many cancers.

Genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV) are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA. There are more than 150 strains or subtypes of HPV that can infect humans, although only 40 of these strains are linked to one or more cancers. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Although the early symptoms of HPV infections aren’t serious, those infections are closely linked to many types of cancers in men and women. According to current medical research, here are some of the cancers that are linked to HPV:

These are all dangerous and disfiguring cancers that can be mostly prevented by the HPV cancer vaccine. HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous as tobacco with respect to cancer.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) just issued a report that examined human papillomavirus infection in Americans from 2011-2014. They found the following:

  • During 2011–2014, prevalence of any oral human papillomavirus (HPV) for adults aged 18–69 was 7.3%; high-risk HPV was 4.0%.
  • Overall, prevalence of any and high-risk oral HPV was lowest among non-Hispanic Asian adults; any oral HPV was highest among non-Hispanic black adults.
  • Prevalence of any and high-risk oral HPV was higher in men than women except for high-risk HPV among Asian adults.
  • During 2013–2014, prevalence of any and high-risk genital HPV for adults aged 18–59 was 45.2% and 25.1% in men and 39.9% and 20.4% in women, respectively.
  • Prevalence of any and high-risk genital HPV was lower among non-Hispanic Asian and higher among non-Hispanic black than both non-Hispanic white and Hispanic men and women.

As I mentioned above, most strains of HPV are not related to cancer. However, according to this data, almost 23% of US adults, ages 18-59, had a type of HPV that increased the risk of certain cancers by a significant amount. Furthermore, around 42% of adults have any type of genital HPV.

An important aspect of this study is that it examined human papillomavirus infections in both men and women – previous studies on HPV concentrated on teen girls and younger women, which found a lower prevalence of the higher risk types of HPV. This ties closely to findings that certain HPV-related cancer rates have been increasing in the USA.

Again, the human papillomavirus infection is easily prevented by the HPV vaccine, called Gardasil. Unfortunately, the massive propaganda and myths against Gardasil, not based on any science and easily refuted, have done a lot to suppress the uptake of the anti-cancer vaccine.

I just hope these kind of studies impress people that the vaccine is an important tool in preventing some dangerous cancers. The HPV vaccine blocks HPV infections which can help prevent HPV-related cancers. Please get vaccinated – it might save your life.


Cancer and random mutations – your blueberry kale shake won’t help

Cancer and random mutations

We generally blame cancer on a handful of things – viruses, like human papillomavirus or hepatitis B, lifestyle choices like smoking or obesity, inherited genes, and the environment, like sunlight. We are under the impression that we can stop cancer just by living better, drinking blueberry kale shakes, or being generally healthy. According to a new study, cancer and random mutations are linked over ⅔ of the time. In other words, no matter how many of those natural health smoothies you drink, cancer might randomly occur.

Let’s take a look at cancers and the relationship between cancer and random mutations. Continue reading “Cancer and random mutations – your blueberry kale shake won’t help”

HPV vaccine prevents skin cancer – kinda, sorta, maybe

hpv vaccine prevents skin cancer

I’ve written somewhere north of 60 articles about the cancer preventing HPV vaccine, which I think is one of the most powerful tools in preventing some deadly cancers. Mostly, I concentrate on discussing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in blocking human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Since HPV is considered the cause of a handful of serious cancers, it is a powerful cancer prevention tool. Now there’s a report that the HPV vaccine prevents skin cancer – time to see if there’s much evidence.

In a new article published in JAMA Dermatology, the authors reported that the HPV vaccine caused a significant reduction in two types of skin cancer. Before we start cheering in the streets, I better mention that data is from case studies of two, yes two, patients.

In my hierarchy of scientific evidence, case studies aren’t exactly near the top, because they really function as observations (upon which, a hypothesis can be generated). Case studies lack controls, include a very small number of subjects, and rely upon a lot of post hoc leaps of faith to show correlation and causality. However, this type of evidence will allow future researchers to form a hypothesis that the HPV vaccine prevents skin cancer, and create a series of experiments, actually clinical trials, to either support or refute that hypothesis.

Let’s take a look at the study to see what the researchers were observing.

Two adult patients, who had been previous cases of skin cancer, were given three doses of Gardasil (quadrivalent HPV vaccine). The first patient had a 62.5% reduction in squamous cell carcinomas and a 100% reduction in basal-cell carcinomas, the most common skin cancer. Moreover, patient 2 had a 66.5% reduction in squamous cell and a 100% reduction in basal-cell carcinomas. Those are pretty large reductions.

Before we slam the door on this study because it only included two patients, there’s something else that we need to consider – is it biologically plausible for an HPV vaccine to prevent two types of skin cancer? There seems to be a lot of evidence that HPV infections are related to squamous cell carcinomas, including a meta-analysis of all of the HPV and skin cancer research that concluded:

This study serves as added evidence supporting β-HPV as a risk factor for cSCC (cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma) in healthy individuals. The subgroup analysis highlights this significant association for HPV 5, 8, 17, 20, and 38, which may help to direct future prevention efforts.

As opposed to some case studies on the HPV vaccine that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one has a significant amount of biological plausibility. The physicians in this study obviously thought that they might be able to prevent, or at least decrease the rate, of certain skin cancers if the patients received the vaccine.

Based on these two patients, the authors concluded:

A reduction of SCCs and BCCs was observed in 2 patients after administration of the quadrivalent HPV vaccine. These findings highlight the possibility that cutaneous SCC development, and perhaps BCC development, may be driven in part by HPV in immunocompetent patients. Human papillomavirus vaccination may represent an efficacious, cost-effective, readily available, and well-tolerated strategy for preventing KCs.

Can we say that the HPV vaccine prevents skin cancer? The evidence is way too preliminary to make anything but a guess. Should we get the HPV vaccine based on this study? Not really.

But let’s look at this way. We already know that the HPV vaccine prevents a long list of cancers – cervical, penile, oropharyngeal, and a few others. That alone should be sufficient reason to get the vaccine. No other argument is necessary to convince most rational people to get a vaccine that can prevent a whole raft of cancers – and as we know, there aren’t a lot of choices in preventing cancer.

On the other hand, if the HPV vaccine prevents skin cancer, then that’s more or less a bonus. If it doesn’t, you’re still preventing other cancers. If it does, it’s truly going to move into the realm of a “miracle” vaccine.

If you’re on the fence about getting Gardasil for yourself or your children, then maybe, just maybe, you can look at this data and decide that potentially preventing one more cancer is well worth it.

The HPV vaccine prevents cancer. The HPV vaccine saves lives.



We have a cancer prevention vaccine, and it’s called Gardasil

cancer prevention vaccine

I’ve written this so many times, but it bears repeating – there are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Quit smoking. Quit drinking alcohol. Stay out of the sun (and tanning beds). Keep a healthy weight. And add to that list a cancer prevention vaccine, and it goes by the name of Gardasil.

There are more than 200 forms of cancer known to science, and very few are directly preventable. Tobacco smoking causes around 85% of lung cancers, possibly the best understood cancer, killing hundreds of thousands of people each year. Moreover, smoking causes more than a dozen other cancer that kill thousands of more people. Never smoking, or stopping smoking if you do, is probably the number 1 guaranteed method of preventing cancer.

Similarly, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly 40,000 cancer cases annually in the USA. And, like quitting smoking, we have the Gardasil cancer prevention vaccine which blocks HPV infections that lead to one of those 40,000 cancer cases.

Despite all that we know about HPV and Gardasil, it’s still a 50:50 shot whether a teenager will receive the vaccine. We need to change the dynamic about Gardasil, because it prevents cancer!

This article will review the science behind Gardasil along with its impressive safety profile. For those of you who don’t need convincing, maybe this article will serve as a good reference when you’re in one of those exhausting arguments with the anti-Gardasil crowd.

Continue reading “We have a cancer prevention vaccine, and it’s called Gardasil”