My Blood is Boiling
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is trumpeting the HPV epidemic with the statistic, "1 in 4 American women is infected with the virus that causes cervical cancer." And guess what: there's now something that can be done to prevent it. Gardasil to the rescue!
About that opening statistic of "1 in 4": technically, no. Although 1 in 4 women may have HPV, only about a dozen of over a hundred types have actually been assiciated with genital warts or cervical cancer, so the number of women infected with those high risk types is correspondingly lower. The Associated Press piece from which the story is reported quickly backs off, but I heard those exact words quoted above. Myself. On TV. Less than half an hour ago.
I also heard these words spoken by Nancy Snyderman, MD: "Almost four thousand women die of cervical cancer in this country every year." That's playing with the numbers a bit. The projected figure for 2006 was 3700 deaths. I know, because I looked it up for my first post on this subject. The Associated Press piece used by NBC quotes 3670 as a projection for 2007. Projections. I haven't seen any data on actual numbers yet. Even so, anyone notice that the projection for 2007 is for FEWER deaths than 2006? HPV vaccination will have nothing to do with that, as the first possible benefits from vaccination today won't be seen for at least a decade, given the natural history of the disease.
The Blog That Ate Manhattan put it best (paraphrased; sorry I deleted your email):
A huge part of Merck's marketing strategy in the wake of the Vioxx debacle consists of selling this expensive vaccine to frightened first world women and their daughters.If all the money that's going to be spent on Gardasil and other HPV vaccines were instead used to enhance basic gynecological services (paps and HPV treatment) and outreach to women who currently either don't have access or to help overcome the barriers to screening, those cervical cancer death rates -- already ridiculously low; the lowest numbers for all GYN cancers -- can be slashed even further, and in far less than the 10-12 years it will take for Gardasil to "prevent" its very first case.
Thanks, Mr. Williams. Now I'm going to be fielding calls for weeks from adolescents and their mothers whom you have scared shitless. Nothing new here. Stick to the stock market crash. Please!
(Yes yes yes: I know all about the supposed reduction in abnormal paps and treatment for HPV induced dysplasias and all. But it still makes my blood boil.)