Watching TV this afternoon, I really paid attention to that new commercial from Gardasil. “What would you do to protect yourself?” The main thing being to get a PAP test and get vaccinated against cervical cancer. Good advice I suppose. I have heard commercials being played ceaselessly on our local urban radio station (I haven’t heard so many on non-urban stations) encouraging young girls to get themselves vaccinated to protect against cervical cancer. I thought this might be a good place to discuss some of the other risk factors of cervical cancer that we can encourage our daughters and young women in our community to AVOID — instead of seeing vaccination as the be-all and end-all of our cervical health. We have more control than we think:
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- becoming sexually active at a young age
Young women are more susceptible to HPV infection since the cells of the cervix are undergoing rapid change at puberty.
- having many sexual partners
Women who have many partners or who have sex with partners who have had many partners, have a greater chance of getting HPV.
- HIV infection
The immune system of a woman infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is less able to fight both the human papillomavirus and early cancers.
- having a weakened immune system
Immunocompromised women with chronic fatigue syndrome, women who have had organ transplants and women who are taking steroids are less able to fight HPV infection.
Smoking appears to be a cofactor with HPV in causing dysplasia, which may progress to cervical cancer.
Let’s talk about these things too. Gardasil may not be talking about them (why discuss risk factors when you only have a few minutes to promote your product) but we can talk about them in our own families and communities. Any thoughts?