Friday, January 30, 2009

Gardasil’s Smoking Gun

I dunno, maybe they’ve buried it down in the fine print somewhere, along with that garbled this-medicine-may-cause-you-to-have-ingrown-toenails-and-a-rug-like-Blagojevich stuff, but when the manufacturers of Gardasil are being ever-so-helpful about the nasty prevalence of HPV they’re pretty quiet about smoking.

As in, smoking will make you infinitely more likely to develop cervical cancer. And no, not because you’re puffing away on a Marlboro Light only after a little wanton after-school delight.

Even though the average American parent could be forgiven for believing that if their little darling gets HPV she WILL drop dead of cervical cancer ten minutes later—which is why they should immediately get her vaccinated with Gardasil’s three shot series to the tune of four to six hundred bucks, and hang the side effects—in fact the vast majority of cases of HPV cure themselves.

Or, as the CDC puts it, they’re self-limiting.

But not so much if you’re a smoker. A Swedish study found that smokers were 14 to 27 times (that’s times, not percent) more likely to develop pre-cancerous lesions than non-smokers. That’s because smoking depresses the immune system, and a healthy immune system is what shows HPV the door.

So it seems to me that we should run around slapping 11-12 year-old kids with mandatory courses of Zyban. Just as a preventative, of course.

Seriously. Doesn’t that make about as much sense as vaccinating against something that’s unlikely to develop and is easily cured if it does? (Although, granted, not so easy if you fudge going for regular Pap smears or can’t afford it.)

The Zyban alternative makes particular sense—sort of—when we don’t know how long the Gardasil vaccination will last, don’t know if our kids will need booster shots, don’t know if targeting just a few of the many strains of HPV will cause worse replacement diseases to fill the gap, and good lord, we can’t be bothered to require HPV or pregnancy tests prior to vaccination—despite the fact that Gardasil can, according to Merck’s own research, apparently activate HPV to cause more pre-cancerous lesions. And don’t even think about the risks to fetuses.

Of course, we DO know that auto-immune disease is one of the many possible side-effects of Gardasil, but let’s not talk about that.


I think I’m going to take those hundreds of dollars and buy lots of fruits and veggies to bolster the kids’ immune systems instead.

Think our health insurance company would cover that?

Nah. Makes too much sense.

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