HPV infection and cancer: Some startling stats

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Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 2.10.31 PMA new report about a big jump in the incidence of HPV-related oral cancers over the past few decades is both sobering and unexpected.

Farzan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D., who is the director of the Head & Neck Radiation Therapy Program at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, presented some eye-opening data at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology in Atlanta.

The results: Between 1973 and 2009, HPV-related cancers of the tongue, tonsils, soft palate and pharynx increased by 60 percent. The study group included 1600 patients, mostly in the 36-44 age range who had been diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer during that time period.

And these cancers are no laughing matter. The one year survival rate is about 80 percent, but this drops to 54 percent at 5 years.

So, what is going on?

Dr. Siddiqui says, "The growing incidence in oropharyngeal cancer has been largely attributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which led to an increased transmission of high-risk HPV."

In other words, changing sexual practices over the past few decades have spurred a very significant increase in a sexually transmitted disease one that can kill.

Which should lead any sane person to run screaming to their doctor and get the HPV vaccine one of exactly two vaccines in the world (the other being for hepatitis B) known to prevent cancer, says ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom.

So, why is there any question about a decision that should be a no-brainer?

The answer is related to sounds made by various poultry. And what better example could you find than Dr. Joe Mercola purveyor of bad information extraordinaire?

For example, Mercola s recent post on (and you can t make this up) Mercola.com a superb site for bad information claims that Last year, research also revealed that the HPV vaccine reduced HPV-16 infections by only 0.6% in vaccinated women vs. unvaccinated women.

Dr. Bloom adds, Sounds pretty convincing, at least until you look up the reference he uses to support his claim and find that it doesn t even mention the vaccine. Nice going Joe. How many people did you fool? And how many of them will go on to succumb to a preventable cancer. Hope you sleep well at night.

We at ACSH are constantly fighting this kind of deception and misinformation. It would be difficult to find a better example than this.