What disease do people fear most? It’s no contest:
At one time we fantasized about having a weapon against cancer
that’s better than early detection. Now we do, and I’m not just
talking about better treatment. We have vaccines to actually prevent some
cancers by preventing the viral infections that lead to them.
So why doesn’t everyone get these vaccines when they should?
The youngest generation, if they received the complete
immunization schedule for hepatitis B vaccine during
infancy, shouldn’t have to worry about getting HBV-associated liver
cancer. That still leaves a huge population at risk: children who missed the
infant immunizations, adults in high-risk groups (that includes us;
15% of physicians haven’t had the vaccine) and
contacts of people with chronic hepatitis B infection.
Then there’s the HPV vaccine. About half of all sexually active men
and women will be infected with HPV at some time in their lives. That’s a
staggering statistic! Immunization with the HPV vaccine before young folks
begin having sex would prevent the infection and the associated cancers:
Cervical carcinoma as well as other sexually linked cancers in both women and
The HPV immunization rate remains abysmally low. About 60% of adolescent
females have not received any of the three recommended doses. What’s
half their parents have no intention of getting their
We need to tell parents, adolescents, and adult patients at risk for
vaccine-linked cancers — as well as our colleagues, who also should be
passing along the message — that they can do something to rewrite
cancer’s future. This is one instance when it’s okay to play into
Why should anyone develop cancer if a vaccine could prevent it?