Speaking at the 4th International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine in London today Professor Henry Kitchener of the Academic Unit of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Manchester told conference attendees that parents of young girls may soon be offered the opportunity to have their daughters immunized against a sexually transmitted virus that is the major cause of cervical cancer.
Progress in developing vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV) had reached a stage where they are soon to be submitted for licensing. But he warned that it was important there were programs of education for women and men, particularly parents, about HPV and cervical cancer.
In a prepared release Professor Kitchener said: "It is vital that people understand the context in which HPV vaccination is being proposed and that they realize that it is not a treatment for the virus once it has been contracted, or for cervical cancer if the disease has started to develop. Vaccination should not be misconstrued as a green light for sexually permissive behavior rather; it is an effective means of preventing HPV infection when young women are most susceptible in their teenage and young adult years."
According to the release, issued by Teenage Cancer Trust there are nearly 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year worldwide, and every year nearly 274,000 women die from the disease, with about 80% of these deaths occurring in developing countries where there is little or no access to cervical screening programs.
There has already been some protest from right wing Christian groups in the U.S. who claim that the vaccine will encourage promiscuity. No evidence for such a claim exists, and given the enormous health benefits the vaccine offers, we can only hope that this vaccine doesn't go the way of the morning after pill, politically speaking.
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