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Vaccination for Cervical Cancer: Is it safe?
By Karen Trachtenberg
Young, sexually active women, listen up. Human papillomavirus, (HPV), which is present in virtually all cases of cervical cancer, is widespread and it is here to stay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, and that women have an 80 percent chance of contracting it by the time they are 50. The virus is most common among people in their late teens to early 20s.
Approximately 50-80 percent of adults, male and female, will have had or have HPV already. It is possible that a third to 80 percent of the population is carrying it at any given time, says Dr. Mark Wakabayashi, a gynecologic oncologist from the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.
What makes this alarming is that most of the time there are no symptoms, so people do not realize they are infected. There are many strains of HPV, but two main strains, 16, and 18, cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that in virtually all cases of cervical cancer, almost 100 percent of them have HPV as a main contributing factor.
In most people, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause health problems. However, in some women, cervical cancer will develop.
Cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer in women. It is the leading cause of death in many developing countries, where yearly Papanicolaou screenings (Pap smears) that most North American women receive are not readily available.
Gardasil, the name for the cervical cancer vaccine, was approved the FDA in 2006 and is now widely available. Gardasil is administered via three local injections over a six-month period, and it targets the two major cancer-causing strains of HPV, 16 and 18, as well as strains 6 and 11, which can cause genital warts in both men and women.
By targeting those four strains, 70 percent of cervical cancers can and will be prevented, and for women with no exposure (i.e., girls and young women that are not yet sexually active), that number rises to well over 90 percent. What this means, says Dr. Wakabayashi, is that cervical cancer "is potentially totally preventable."
Almost all health insurance carriers cover the cost of vaccination for girls and women ages 11 to 26. For older women, the vaccine is not covered, but many clinics offer it at a price ranging from $120-$300.
Parents may wonder why young girls are being targeted for an STD vaccine, but in many cases, teens become sexually active without telling their parents, so by focusing on young girls and younger women, the efficacy of the vaccine becomes higher. "Parents need to be cognizant of this and not bury their heads in the sand," Dr. Wakabayashi said.
What are the side effects? The most common side effect is pain at the injection site, which is actually a natural inflammatory reaction to the vaccine. If there are serious side effects, they are occurring at a rate of less than one-tenth of one percent. In clinical trials, Gardasil had a 0.1 percent adverse reaction rate, but so did the placebo group (the group of women who were administered saline instead of Gardasil), meaning it is really hard to tell what made them sick in the first place, according to Dr. Wakabayashi.
In the New England Journal of Medicine study it was also reported that there were "no safety concerns" among women who were not pregnant.
Researches say that it is still too early to tell how long the vaccine will last, but so far women that were tested five years after vaccination had certain antigens present in their systems, signifying that Gardasil will offer long-term protection. In northern Europe, a planned 15-year follow-up of vaccinated subjects should provide further information.
Not only is the vaccine safe, but it's necessary. Many public policymakers such as the CDC want to make vaccination against cervical cancer mandatory. Those policymakers are proceeding with caution because questions about overall long-term effectiveness still remain unanswered, as well as questions about potential adverse effects that may emerge over time.
Dr. Wakabayashi emphasized that yearly Pap smears will still be necessary along with vaccination, because Gardasil is not a cure, but a measure of prevention. He expressed fear that many young women who receive the vaccine will forfeit yearly Pap smears as a result, and "that is dangerous," he said.
Male vaccination against HPV is currently being tested and it is something that many doctors are hoping for. In the meantime, what women need to know is this: the practice of safe sex is essential and so is preventative healthcare and maintenance. If you are young and sexually active, consider getting vaccinated against HPV, otherwise, you may not be protected from developing cervical cancer.
The Facts Behind Bluetooth and Cell Phones
By Jara Anton
In the quest to be further connected with less fuss, we have made our cell phones stronger, faster, better, smaller. Upon this journey, we have perfected our technology to fit into the tiniest of spots, most recently into one tiny little ear piece. With the idea that this ear piece made it easier to drive, (it enables the user complete use of both hands), we thought we had finally made some progress. But, now that everyone owns a cell phone or personal digital assistant, Bluetooth has stirred some controversy on whether it is "safe" or not.
Regardless of whether it looks ridiculous or not, Bluetooth's have become the focus of some very intense scrutiny. It has been linked to vehicular homicide as well as brain cancer. In the most bizarre study, a US team found that heavy cell phone users had lower sperm counts. Some thought the result was from ancillary causes like lack of exercise or stress that would be consistent with heavy mobile phone usage.
Basically the scare is this, do cell phones cause cancer? Many studies have been conducted over the years, some with conflicting results but the latest consensus is that cell phones are generally safe for use in the short term. The effects of long term usage have yet to be studied, although such studies are in the works. Cell phones are being said to cause things like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well as brain cancer. Many scientists say that because studies need more time to properly develop, most causes of cancer require at least 10 years to produce noticeable problems in a population. So as far as scientists stepping up about phones causing cancer, it's a short list. So, basically, nobody knows nor has the proper data to even make the assumption.
Of course, we, as cell phone owners are interested in this kind of information, even if it is hype. The best advice is to take any kind of this "research" with a heaping mound of salt.
Furthermore, the technology in the cell phone universe is constantly changing. By the time one study comes out, we've already upgraded to better and faster. In a lot of ways, these research programs are behind right from the start, rendering the results practically meaningless. If you are concerned about radiation, you may want to move to a different planet. At one point or another, it seems that everything on the planet emitted harmful "rays of radiation" that would cause all types of ailments.
As far as function, Bluetooth is the way to go as far as driving while speaking on the phone. If you really believe that you are being harmed by radiation coming out of your phone, you could switch to the speaker phone; phase out a cell phone from your life; o r simply cut back on your usage.
The point is, when reading about studies on what the newest "it" source of cancer, look a little deeper.
Minimally Invasive Light Therapy For Skin Rejuvenation
By Marc Kerner, MD, FACS
Fall and Winter are approaching and it is the perfect time for skin procedures. Amo-ng one of the most popular non surgical skin procedures is Intense Pulsed Light or IPL. IPL a technology that utilizes filtered light to treat various conditions of the skin including excessive redness, rosacea, brown spots, photodamage from sun exposure, and small veins. It can improve skin texture, pore size, and give the skin a overall healthy glow. IPL is performed by using a cold gel which is applied to the treated area. Dark glasses are then given to the patient to protect their eyes. The IPL handpiece is then applied to the skin and pulses of light are delivered. Treatment is generally administered in a series of 4-6 sessions. Each session takes about 20 minutes.
Intense Pulsed Light treatments can also be used for acne. Active acne is one of the leading skin disorders that results in embarrassment, shame, and a lack of self esteem. Patients with acne are at times frustrated with the lack of truly successful therapies. Accu-tane is a highly effective drug taken orally, but has so many side effects and potential problems that deter many people from using it. Using a photosensitizing drug called Levulan, the IPL can be combined to treat cystic acne, resulting in remarkable improvements. More importantly, there are no side effects from the treatment. Many patients respond to a single treatment, although most require two to four treatments spread one month apart. It is important that patients stay of out the sun and use sun protection at all times following any light treatment. For more information contact Dermatique Medical Center at (805) 230-1111 or visit
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