Monthly Archives: July 2011

The HPV vaccine: 3 shots of prevention

By Debbie Saslow, PhD

Many people ask me about whether or not their daughters should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer. As with all new vaccines, there has been some controversy. Some parents have been reluctant to get their daughters vaccinated before they are sexually active, yet this is precisely when the vaccine will be most effective. Others were concerned about safety; the HPV vaccines are extremely safe, based on tens of millions of doses distributed worldwide. There was also an initial push, generated by the manufacturer, to require HPV vaccination for middle school enrollment. To date only Virginia and Washington, D.C., have such a requirement.

To answer the question of whether to vaccinate, it helps to have some background:

In the United States, an estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2010, with an estimated 4,210 deaths. But there have been fewer deaths over the past several decades due to cancer screening tests. That’s great news. But we can reduce the number of people even getting cervical cancer by doing what  we know works. [more]

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which a few dozen can infect the genital tract and about 15 can cause cancer of the cervix.… Continue reading →

Is your car killing you with benzene?

By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA

An e-mail message that may have come into your inbox recently claims that dangerous levels of a cancer-causing chemical (benzene) are released from the plastic surfaces of automobile interiors. The e-mail recommends opening the vehicle’s windows to remove the benzene before using the air conditioner.

 

Although benzene is linked to leukemia, very little research has looked at whether the interior surfaces of cars release dangerous amounts of benzene, and the information that is available does not support the e-mail’s claims. [more]

Let’s break the message down and compare the claims with the facts.

 

Here is the e-mail message (this links to snopes.com, which is not affiliated with cancer.org or ACS)

 

 

And here’s a point-by-point comparison of the claims and the facts:

 

Claim: My car’s manual says to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on the A/C. WHY?

Fact: On a sunny day, the temperature in a parked car can be more than 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) higher than the outside air. Opening the windows is the fastest way to exchange the hot interior air with the cooler outside air. Once that is done, the air conditioner can make the interior cooler than the outside air.… Continue reading →

How do we know if medicines affect cancer risk?

By Eric Jacobs, PhD

You may be wondering if you should start taking an aspirin every day, since you’ve heard that aspirin can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Or maybe your cholesterol level is a little high but you’re concerned about taking a statin pill every day because you saw an Internet article that said lowering cholesterol by taking a statin might cause cancer.

Or recently, a study came out that suggested that using the over the counter pain reliever acetaminophen at least 4 times a week for 4 years, might increase risk of certain types of blood cancers.

Medications often have unexpected long-term effects, both good and bad, that are not fully known. We’d all like to understand the full range of risks and benefits of a drug before we take it. Or at least we’d like our doctors to understand them so they can help us make well-informed decisions. [more]

Understanding the risks and benefits of medications is the goal of pharmacoepidemiology, the study of the use and effects of medications in large groups of people. Because cancer is a serious disease we all want to prevent, understanding if medications might raise or lower risk of getting cancer is especially important.… Continue reading →