HPV Vaccine can eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue

HPV Prevention Protect your children, yourself & your partner

October 1-7, 2018 marked the second annual HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Prevention Week in Canada. As Chair of this educational week, initiated by the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, we focused on the need for both education and awareness of this common virus and how we can prevent the cancers associated with persistence. What does that mean practically? Well, 75-80% of adults in North America will be exposed to HPV at some point in their life. Most of us clear the virus, the way we clear a common cold. But persistence of the virus has now been linked to 6 different cancers in men and women. The most common one is cervical cancer where HPV now accounts for more than 99% of cancers. And oral cancers (think of the Michael Douglas story) are rapidly increasing in men.

The good news?

We have a fabulous vaccine, now offered to all boys and girls in the school system throughout Canada, in every province and territory. However, we do not have 100% uptake of the vaccine. Some of our young people may not be protected.

And what about older men and women? Our national guideline says there is no upper age limit for use of the vaccine. If you are likely going to be exposed, a new partner for example, you should talk to your doctor about immunization.

How do we know vaccination is really worth it? Australia is the leading country in the world with respect to this vaccine. When they announced vaccination in the school system more than 10 years ago, their uptake was very high. And they started immunizing boys as well in their school system soon after girls. The result: they just announced that by 2028, they will be the first country in the world to have eliminated cervical cancer as a public health issue, with less than 4 cases per 100,000. And by 2066, they project less than 1 case per 100,000.

Eliminating cancer by vaccination against the virus responsible.
That is what this is all about. That is why we held a week of education. That is why we want to be the second country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer. That is why you should protect your kids, protect yourself, protect your partner. That is why you should talk to your doctor!


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HPV- Not just for girls & women. HPV can also cause cancer in boys & men

shutterstock_566860909.jpgThe Human Papillomavirus  (HPV) is among the most common sexually transmitted viruses in the world with some strains leading to various cancers as well as external genital warts

What this  really means is that we now understand what is causing cancer in these regions.   It’s very exciting, because if we understand what causes a cancer, we can begin to prevent it. 

According to Health Canada,  as many as 75% of sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime, with the highest rate found in people under 25.  What
we don’t fully understand is why some people clear the infection and never get cancer while others have persistent infections, which leads to abnormalities.
  Cervical cancer is the most common HPV- associated cancer worldwide, so the majority of HPV research has
been focused on understanding the role of HPV and cervical disease.
Therefore the first trials involved girls and women. As a result, when the
vaccine was introduced in 2006 in Canada, it was launched as an immunization programme for school aged girls. However, as research continued, much more is now known about the role of HPV in causing cancers and disease in males.  Therefore in 2012, the
National Advisory Committee on Immunization reviewed its’ recommendations and now recommends the HPV vaccine not only for girls and women but also for boys and
men. It is so exciting that we now have a vaccine that will reduce the risk of cancers in
both sexes.  How do we know this? In my next blog, I will take a look at some of the published
research findings, which show how effective vaccination really is!