How to Prevent Your Kids from Getting Cancer


Clinical Advisor

One type of cancer anyway—get them vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine is now recommended for both girls and boys. The virus provokes the development of cancer, so the vaccine helps prevent cervical cancer in women and head and neck cancer in men. In 2010, (the latest figure) 11,818 women in the U.S. were diagnosed cervical cancer and 3,939 died of it. It is estimated that more than 2,370 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in women and nearly 9,356 are diagnosed in men each year in the United States. Despite the well-known benefits of the vaccine, only 38 percent of American girls and just 14 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have been fully vaccinated.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have published recent terrific op-eds explaining the benefits of HPV vaccination for your kids. In the Times, pediatrician Paul Offit suggests that parents and physicians are squeamish about HPV vaccination since the disease is sexually transmitted. His tart reply: It's not about sex; it's about cancer. He points out:

About 79 million people in the United States have been infected with HPV, and 14 million new infections occur every year. As a consequence, 18,000 women and 8,000 men suffer preventable cancers of the cervix, anus, penis and throat; it's the most common, and except for H.I.V., the most fatal sexually transmitted disease….

The fact remains that millions of adolescents aren't getting a vaccine to prevent a known cause of cancer. It takes about 20 years for an HPV infection to progress to cancer. That's when the bill is due. Given current rates of immunization, somewhere around 2,000 adults every year whose parents had chosen not to give them the HPV vaccine will probably die from a preventable cancer. It's unconscionable. And doctors will have only themselves to blame.

In the Post, New America Foundation fellow Meredith Wadman concurs and explains why she has had her sons vaccinated well before puberty:

When I had my sons vaccinated, it was partly with girls in mind. After all, if fewer young men are infected, fewer young women will be exposed to the virus that causes cervical cancer — currently the most common cancer prevented by the vaccine. But now I am realizing that HPV poses a growing risk to boys.

A new breed of cancer of the back of the tongue and tonsils, caused by HPV, is rising in incidence — likely caused, researchers suspect, by increases in premarital sex and oral sex over the past several decades. These cancers afflict men far more often than women, and at relatively younger ages than do other head and neck cancers, which typically appear in men older than 60. Middle-aged men who don't die from their HPV-linked cancer often must live for years with the side effects of intensive chemotherapy and radiation delivered to the back of the throat. These can include the permanent inability to swallow and the appearance later of new, aggressive, radiation-induced cancers.

Not getting your kids vaccinated against this disease is, as Dr. Offit points out, unconscionable.

Go here to see Reason's debate, Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

Disclosure: A friend just finished a brutal round of radiation and chemo to treat his HPV-associated head and neck cancer. Go get your kids vaccinated!

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  1. That can’t be right, Ron Bailey. Why, I have been assured by my fellow commenters, and indignantly so, that “[commenter’s] daughter doesn’t need a vaccination against an STD she’s never going to get.” Those people, being responsible parents and all, surely did their due diligence and know that skin-to-skin transmission of HPV is merely a myth.

    1. 79 million Americans have it, what is that, about 1 in 4? So those commenters have about a 75% chance of being right?

      1. Notice the goalpost shifting from an absolute “never going to get” to “unlikely to get”.

        1. How can I shift goalposts in one post?

          1. Its probably stupid to assume your precious snowflake is going to be monogamous with someone who is also monogamous, but I dont know their kids, so they may be right.

            None of my damn business.

            But, even if they are wrong, the odds are still “good”.

            It would be interesting to see a chart of “number of lifetime sexual partners” vs “rate of HPV infection”.

            1. It’s definitely stupid to assume your precious snowflake is going to be monogamous with someone who is also monogamous. It has never been the case for even a significant minority of the population at any point in recorded history.

              1. I think you are wrong, but it might be semantics over the term “significant”.

                1. It’s probably never been more than 1% of the population who have been able to ignore their basic biological urges and only have sex with 1 other person their entire lives.

                  1. What sample size is required for one percent to be significant? A few thousand?

                    With a world population of 7 billion or whatever, I will claim victory.

            2. …and totally ignoring skin-skin transmission. Go Socons!

              1. totally ignoring skin-skin transmission

                What is the relative transmission rates? Aids was transferrable via some freaky non-sexual means too, but they were a small percent of the total. Because its a whole lot easier to catch it via sex.

                And skin-skin transmission doesnt change the math any.

  2. In 2010, (the latest figure) 11,818 women in the U.S. were diagnosed cervical cancer and 3,939 died of it. It is estimated that more than 2,370 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in women and nearly 9,356 are diagnosed in men each year in the United States.

    5000 children in the US die every year from falling off of furniture. Owning bunk beds is “unconscionable”.

    1. I broke my twin brother’s arm pushing him off the top bunk. My parents were obviously unfit.

  3. Immunizing people against sexually transmitted diseases is basically the same thing as handing them a license to go out and fuck, without even bothering to get that fucking sanctioned by the church. Also it probably turns them gay?

    1. Crikey, he’s on to us.

      1. First you made off with a trillion Euro, now this?!

        You have been busy!

        1. Well, not just me, Swedish Waiter, but the whole vast homosexual conspiracy. Tonio only pawn in game of life.

          “Bern baby Bern”. I LOL’d.

  4. A conservative argument against this vaccination is that it will give young women a false sense of protection and they’ll engage in more sex (and we can’t have that!). Yet these same a-holes defend the barbaric practice of infant male genital mutilation in part because it (supposedly) lowers the risk of contracting HIV. These two positions are clearly contradictory but my brain isn’t working well enough this morning to make a clever comment about it…

    1. Wait, I thought circumcision also made sex less enjoyable. Seems like they aren’t as clearly contradictory as you’d like them to be.

      1. *shrugs*

        I enjoy it just fine, thank you very much.

        1. As do I.

          And Im not sure my wife would want me finishing any faster.


            Don’t worry- someone took away the option for you to decide.

        2. You have no point of reference, unless you were cut as an adult. Even if you are right, cutting a child without urgent medical reason is totally barbaric.

      2. Don’t recall any conservative supporting circumcision because they believed it would make sex less enjoyable. Since my parents made the decision for me I have nothing to compare it to. But it seems like cutting off sensitive skin loaded with nerve endings would have to have a negative impact on sexual enjoyment.

        1. It’s not that so much as the glans (head) of an unmutilated penis is much more sensitive because it stays all soft and sensitive in its little fleshy hood.

          1. The best analogy I’ve heard is how your feet feel on a shag carpet after spending the day encased in socks, as opposed to someone who walks around barefoot all day. Bottom line, and exposed body part is far less sensitive to stimuli than a part that is protected most of the time. Seems logical to me…

    2. No, that assumes that the disease is only transmitted sexually. Skin-skin contact. Kiss from slutty aunt. Etc.

      The socon argument against this involves reality denial, which is their stock in trade.

      1. No, that assumes that the disease is only transmitted sexually. Skin-skin contact. Kiss from slutty aunt. Etc.


    3. Vaccination is not cosmetic body modification without consent.

      2 different fruits.

      One is fine. The other is not.

      1. Am I the only one who really doesn’t give a shit about circumcision?

        1. No. You don’t have to care about it- but you should be able to see it’s objectively a bad practice.

      2. Vaccination is not cosmetic body modification without consent.

        Unless circumcision is performed forcibly against a parent’s wishes, it is being performed with consent.

        If a parent has the moral authority to consent to vaccinations or to send them to one school over another but they don’t have the moral authority to pierce their ear or circumcise them, then you have a deep foundational issue with your principals that you need to address.

        1. Wow, way to project, overt. You can’t see a difference between educational choice and irreversible body modification?

          Is he that stupid or just dishonest?

          1. The wrong school choice can lead to irreversible brain modification. The last time I checked, the brain was a part of the body.

        2. What about double mastectomy? It would cure 100% of breast cancer?

          What about lopping off a finger? Toe? Ears? What about tattooing the kid?

          That’s such a BS argument. (I’m in the same boat for ear piercing, btw. The ramifications are simply less severe- but it’s still wrong.)

    4. “because it (supposedly) lowers the risk of contracting HIV”. That’s just pure opportunism on their part. As demonstrated on this thread they only make fact-based arguments when it supports their superstitions; when actual observable reality contradict that they get all pouty and self-righteous.

      1. As demonstrated on this thread

        I fail to see any of this on this thread.

  5. What’s with all the fucking dots?

    1. I don’t know, I was going to askt he same thing. What did reason do to the comments?!

      1. It’s not just the comments, the whole reason stylesheet is screwed up.

    2. It’s HPV. Should have gotten vaccinated, and now it’s too late.

      1. Commentariat Warts? Ewww!

    3. Marked for death.

    4. Uh, oh! Looks like “NEW FEATURE!” time.

    5. What’s with all the fucking dots?


    6. Someone failed to close the tag up above in the “Related” box, I think.

      But why are you fucking the dots? You will get an STD and cancer from that.

      1. It’s on all the pages, not just the articles.

  6. “Sorry, baby, I’d love to return the favor, but, you know, cancer.”

  7. Daughter finished the vaccine cycle in Nov. Her main complaint was that it is a rather painful shot as vaccines go, her arm hurt for two days after each injection. We had no hesitation in giving her the vaccine, and we would have even if we had paid the full cost ourselves. (Ins covered it all)

    I looked around to try and find a system wide cost of vaccine vs. cost of HPV and cervical cancer treatment. I thought that a study had been done, that showed minimal global savings but I can’t find the link.

    1. Cost isn’t the issue so much as that you are much less likely to die from a series of shots than you are from cervical cancer.

    2. Did you get a zombie vaccine?

      1. Too late – watch your braaaains, he looks hungry.

        1. Well I was looking around at HuffPo, but I was going hungry…

  8. Can I get a vaccination against this weird new comments format?

    1. Commenting worked when Postel was in charge.

      1. Who’s Postel?

        1. Someone who used to be in charge when comments worked.


  9. All of my culturemap “young professionals” slideshow links in the AM links got eaten by squirrelz this morning.

  10. If you abort them you don’t have to worry about them getting cancer.

    1. Or eating deep dish pizza

  11. The dots are gone!

    1. Long live the dots!

    2. The vaccine works!

      1. vaccines dont cure outbreaks.

        1. I know that. I was trying to make a joke.

          1. The best humor has a core element of truth to it.

            1. That’s why it wasn’t a very good joke.

            2. No, the best humor, and also the cruellest, is unconscious self-parody. You are a master of that, robc.

              1. the best humor, and also the cruellest, is unconscious self-parody.

                We have noticed.

  12. Wow. Circumcision, dots, Postrel.


  13. Uck, the only problem I have with this vaccine is everyone thinking they know better than you on if you need it. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gone round and round explaining to people that they don’t understand my personal position and why I’m not going to jump in the sack with someone anytime soon. (for the curious, nerve damage resulting in large swaths of numbness on all the freaking relevant parts, which means no pleasure for me)

    1. Medicine is one size fits all, so take your shot and shut up.

  14. Well, I’m 28 can’t get the vaccine. Apparently the vaccine is only offered to 26 year olds and younger. Furthermore, there are what 313.9 million people in the USA and 4,000 die a year from it. So, my chances of getting cervical cancer and dying are about what ? .00001274. Looks like I’m gonna get cervical cancer and die.

    1. Not just cervical cancer, oropharyngeal (that’s your mouth parts, Henry). What is it about this that causes you people to go into such hysterical denial?

      1. Probably the same thing that causes others to become sanctimonious pricks.

      2. Hysterical denial? The fact of the matter is I should have a choice regardless of my age to be vaccinated at the same price. Thanks for the tip about oropharyngeal cancer I’ll try not to suck so many dicks ridden with HPV16. (FYI I am a girl, biomedical undergrad, and worked as a medical assistant to get patient experience to apply to P.A school).

  15. It’s time to get out of the habit of cunnilingus and fellatio. I know many people love it but it’s just not healthy.

  16. Way to tell people to shut off their brains because CANCER. Real man of science you are, Ron Bailey.

    Transmission of HPV is through freely chosen, controllable, and relatively unusual avenues (compared to, say, breathing). It’s not airborn or even from skin contact. There is NO reason to get the vaccine unless one expects to be engaging in activities that make transmission possible.

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