Entries in Vaccination (7)


HPV-Related Cancers on Rise as Vaccination Rates Stay Low

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As cancer rates overall continue to decline, HPV-related cancers of the esophagus and anus are on the rise, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.

At the same time, vaccination rates, which could stem the number of cancer deaths, still remain low.

The report, published Monday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concludes that the spike in cancers thought to be caused by the human papilloma virus, or HPV, underscores the need for additional prevention efforts, including immunization.

Since the 1990s, deaths for cancer of the lung, colon, breast and prostate have been declining, according to the report. However, death rates from melanoma and cancers of the pancreas, liver and uterus all appear to be on the rise.

For years now, doctors have urged young women to be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is believed to cause cervical cancer.

But in 2010, fewer than half of girls aged 13-17 had received even just one dose of the vaccine against HPV, while only 32 percent had received the recommended three doses, according to the report.

And now, growing research in Europe and the United States is implicating HPV in a rising number of cases of head and neck cancers in men, and many doctors are recommending that all boys be vaccinated as well.

Doctors say that changing sexual behaviors -- earlier sex, more partners and especially oral sex -- are contributing to a new epidemic of orpharyngeal squamous cell cancers, those of the throat, tonsils and base of the tongue.

These cancers can be deadly, and are striking men at a younger age and in increasing numbers.

"There's a lag in information," Dr. John Deeken, a medical oncologist at Georgetown University, told ABC News in a report on HPV-related cancers in 2010. "We physicians have done a poor job of advertising the fact that boys and girls should have the vaccine."

"This kind of cancer traditionally affects males who have been smoking and drinking all their life, and now in their mid-60s they are getting head and neck cancer," he said. "However, HPV cancer we are seeing in younger patients who have never smoked."

Two decades ago, about 20 percent of all oral cancers were HPV-related, but today that number is more than 50 percent, according to studies published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Similarly high rates have also been seen in Europe, where a 2010 Swedish study showed a strong correlation between oral cancers and oral sex.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Gardasil for girls in 2006 and for boys for treatment of genital and anal warts in 2009. The vaccine can be given at any age, though it is most effective when given to young people before any sexual exposure.

Doctors say it could prevent 10,000 more cases of oral cancer a year.

Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx are diagnosed, and more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cure rates are higher than for smoking-related throat cancers, but still only 50 percent.

Today, men are more likely to get oral cancer than are women, but as the epidemic grows, that could soon change.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Those who are infected often have no symptoms and pass it on to their partners through genital contact during vaginal and anal sex. It can also be transmitted during oral sex and, more rarely, during deep kissing through saliva.

There are more than 100 strains of the virus. Some cause genital warts, but others can result in cell changes that decades later can become cancerous. Each strain is identified by a number; oral and cervical cancers are caused by HPV sub-types 16 and 18.

HPV can also cause cancers of the vulva, vagina and penis, and there is some evidence it is associated with lung cancers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Experts Call for Safer Sex, More Vaccinations to Fight Oral HPV Rates

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Oral HPV infections are much higher than expected among American adults, according to a new study of 5,500 people. Experts say the study also paints a picture of changing sexual practices in the U.S. and advances the case for expanding vaccination against the virus among children and young adults.

Nearly seven percent of 14- to 69-year-olds in the U.S. have oral HPV, according to the report published Thurday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Men were at three times greater risk than women for infection with the virus, particularly from age 30 to 34 and 60 to 64.

About one percent of the population -- nearly two million people -- has HPV-16, a particular strain of the virus that has been linked to oral cancers. The study said that this strain of the virus puts a person at a 50-fold increased risk of developing oral cancer.

The study is the first to give an idea of just how common oral HPV is among Americans. Much more is known about the version of the virus that leads to cervical cancer, which has recently been publicized by the creation of a vaccine against it. But experts say oral HPV is still something of a mystery. Unlike for genital HPV, oral HPV has no approved screening test.

"We know almost nothing about oral HPV infections," said Dr. Maura Gillison, the study's lead author.

But the study gives new insight into the factors that make oral HPV infection more likely. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of those factors is sex. Less than one percent of people who had never had sex had oral HPV in the study, but the risk of infection for those with sexual experience was nearly eight times greater. The risk also edged higher as people reported greater numbers of sexual partners.

Dr. Peter Leone, medical director of the North Carolina HIV/STD Prevention and Control Branch, said these data point to shifts in patterns of sexual practices in the U.S.

"With the era of HIV, we've seen a movement of heterosexuals engaging in more oral sex with the idea that it's safer than vaginal sex. That's probably also why we're seeing increases in these infections," Leone said. "A lot of people don't think of their head and neck as a sex organ, which fuels the idea that we don't have to worry about acquiring an infection there."

Experts say studies show that more people are having oral sex at younger ages than in decades past. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 48 percent of heterosexual males and 44 percent of heterosexual females ages 15 to 19 reported having oral sex in a 2008 survey.

Oral sex often does not get the same attention when it comes to protection as other intercourse. Condom sales in the U.S. have increased, but Leone said people most likely use them exclusively for vaginal or anal sex.

Smoking was also an important risk factor for oral HPV in the study, possibly indicating that it leaves the body more vulnerable to infection, particularly in the mouth and throat.

More oral sex with less protection may be one reason why the risk of oral HPV was so heavy for men, though the study didn't provide any official reason for the gender difference in infection. The authors speculated that the virus may have an easier time transmitting orally in men than in women, or that other factors like smoking that are more common among men could facilitate transmission.

Experts say the study provides another strong argument for vaccinating both boys and girls against HPV, a move recommended by the CDC in 2011. By 2008, only about 30 percent of women and even fewer men had gotten the vaccine, which has been approved for both men and women ages 9 to 26.

HPV vaccines like Merck's Gardasil and Glaxo SmithKline's Cervarix have so far only been tested for their effectiveness against the virus that causes cervical, vulvar and anal cancer. The vaccines work against several strains of the virus, including HPV-16, which Gillison noted is responsible for about 90 percent of oral HPV cases, as opposed to about 57 percent of cervical HPV infections.

"We have every reason to be optimistic that it will work against oral HPV, but we don't know directly because it's never been studied," she said.

Dr. Hans Schlecht, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said it will probably take at least a decade to know whether the vaccines are effective against oral HPV.

Experts say protection against oral HPV begins by practicing safe oral sex and quitting smoking.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Too Few Americans Get Their Flu Shot

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s never too late to get your flu shot, according to experts who say too few Americans take advantage of the beneficial shot.

HealthDay reports that only 42 percent of people in the United States received the vaccines during last year’s flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"People often shrug off concerns about the flu, yet every year it strikes up to 20 percent of Americans, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and killing thousands," Dr. Thomas Slama, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said.

The flu vaccination is available as an intradermal shot that uses a needle that's 90 percent smaller than a regular shot and injects the vaccination into the skin and not the muscle.

The vaccination is also available in the form of a nasal spray.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Vaccinations to Target Adults

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Children and adults alike are becoming equally targeted for immunizations, according to experts who claim adults also need protection from an array of diseases beyond the flu.

HealthDay reports that medical science is creating a host of new immunizations exclusively designed for adults to help prevent them from contracting life-threatening diseases in middle-age and beyond.

"Immunization is a life-long issue that we need to pay a lot of attention to," said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"You need an influenza shot every year," Benjamin said. "Part of that is because the virus changes every year—sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.”

New vaccines, like the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that protects women against cervical cancer, target specific age groups, which can make it more difficult to figure out which shots are needed.

Medical experts also report that a large number of vaccines target senior citizens specifically with immunizations designed to give the immune system an extra boost when needed.

"As we age, our ability to fight off disease wanes," Benjamin said. "Vaccines can help offset the waning of your body's normal immune responses."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Docs Find Rise in Measles Cases a 'Tragedy'

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- For many doctors, reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing the largest increase in measles cases in almost 20 years is troubling but not surprising.

"This is a tragedy," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Only six months into the calendar year, 152 Americans have already been diagnosed with measles -- double the average number of cases in a half-year, and the largest outbreak in nearly two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thirty-five percent of the patients were hospitalized, and nine cases progressed to pneumonia, according to the CDC.

Signs of measles, a highly contagious viral respiratory disease, can easily be confused with the common cold. The disease progresses quickly and can lead to fatal complications.

Most who were diagnosed were not vaccinated against the disease, the CDC said. The combination measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine is the strongest protection not only for those who get the shot, but also those who are immunocompromised, thus vulnerable to the disease and unable to receive the vaccine, said Dr. Larry Givner, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The first dose of the combination MMR vaccine is given to children 12 to 15 months old, according to CDC recommendations. The second dose is usually given before the start of kindergarten to ensure that a child has developed immunity.

The MMR vaccine has contributed to a 99-percent reduction in cases in the U.S.

The spike in reported measles cases comes on the heels of a survey released in early June by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Program Office that showed that nearly 80 percent of parents are uncomfortable about having their children vaccinated in general, not just against the measles.

While many of the parents are simply queasy about the needle, their concerns include doubts about the safety of vaccines, the number of vaccines their children receive, and the persistent worries that the vaccines are to be blamed for disabilities like autism, the study said.

Despite their concerns, at least 95 percent of parents have their children vaccinated while only five percent skip some of the vaccines. Only two percent say they would avoid vaccines altogether.

Parental uncertainty over vaccinations means there is a continuing need for reassurance and education about the necessity of getting kids immunized, the CDC said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC to Travelers: Vaccinate Young Children Early Against Measles

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Although most people think of measles as a pimply plague of the past, U.S. families traveling or living abroad should take extra precautions because of increasing cases among residents returning from Europe, Africa and Asia.

U.S. infants and toddlers spending time overseas should be vaccinated earlier than those living in this country, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Friday as part of a report on cases imported by tiny travelers.  Young children are more vulnerable to severe measles infections and at greater risk of death or encephalitis, a dangerous brain inflammation.

Before heading overseas, U.S. children aged six to 11 months should receive one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, while those at least one year old should receive two doses spaced at least 28 days apart.  That compares with the general recommendation to give the first dose at 12-15 months, and a second before starting kindergarten.

The CDC since 1989 has advised accelerating measles vaccinations for youngsters headed to regions with known outbreaks, although it's unclear how many parents have heeded the guidance.

The latest public health warning about "imported cases" might surprise parents and some doctors, as measles largely has fallen off the U.S. radar screen since 2000, when it was declared eliminated within our borders.

More worrisome to U.S. moms and dads might be news that measles has been on the upswing in such developed countries as Great Britain, Switzerland, France and Spain.  According to the CDC, 39 percent of U.S. measles imports in 2005-2008 originated in Europe.

"Despite the fact that it's been in the news in Europe, we believe that people in the United States are largely unaware that there is measles in Europe," Dr. Gregory L. Armstrong, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC in Atlanta, said in an interview Friday.

In 1994, health officials pronounced measles gone from the United Kingdom, only to declare it endemic again in 2008 because of falling immunization levels, he said.  Cases have been increasing in France, Switzerland, and lately in Spain.

"By and large, these cases are occurring in people who are born in those countries and who are philosophically opposed to vaccination," Armstrong said. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Guidelines Emphasize Timely Teen Vaccination

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics has released its latest vaccine recommendations.

"The new vaccination schedule draws more importance to vaccinate teens," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "Even though our kids may have gotten a vaccine when they were young, we know that as we get older, protection wears off."

More frequent visits to the doctor make it easier for babies to get all of their recommended vaccines. But it's harder to keep up with vaccines as a child gets older, Besser said.

  • Flu vaccine: Most children aged 6 months to 8 years old should now receive two doses of the flu vaccine, even if they received the H1N1 vaccine last year.
  • Pertussis vaccine: Children 7-10 not previously vaccinated against pertussis -- also known as whooping cough -- should get a single dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, or Tdap vaccine. Teens ages 13 to 18 who did not get the Tdap should get the vaccine, followed by the Td booster every 10 years after.
  • HPV vaccine: The HPV vaccine is now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for prevention of genital warts in females, but may also be administered in a three-dose series to boys aged 9 to 18.
  • Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine: Children older than 5 and adults who have sickle cell, leukemia or HIV, or have had a part of their spleen removed should receive a single dose of this vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: This vaccine is typically given right after birth. Catch-up vaccinations for children who miss the recommended birth dose should be given on a schedule of 0, 1, and 6 months. The third dose should be given no earlier than 24 weeks old. If your teen did not receive the hepatitis B vaccine as a baby, they should receive a two-dose combination.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Any series begun with the older, 7-valent vaccine should be completed with the new 13-valent version. A single supplemental dose of the new vaccine is recommended for children who have completed the series using the old one.
  • Meningococcal vaccine: Adolescents should receive the first vaccine before age 12, and then should receive a booster when they're between ages 16 to 18.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio