Monday, March 9, 2009

Summer lovin'...

Happened so fast! Okay, I'm still on a "Grease" theme, but hey, the music fits the topic! So, what's next? HPV- the Human Papilloma Virus. Did you know over 20 million Americans have active HPV infections as I type this? That over a million Americans have genital warts at any given time? HPV is VERY COMMON. The good news is that now we have Gardasil, which will protect young women against both genital warts and cervical cancer. The bad news is that people are nervous about giving their daughters the vaccine. Remember, we give all babies the hepatitis B vaccine in the first day of life. Hepatitis B is spread through IV drug use and sex, but we give to everyone so we can prevent the end stage disease, which is liver cancer. Similarly, while it's great to prevent genital warts, the larger purpose of Gardasil is to prevent cervical cancer. The safety studies on Gardasil are in (see my earlier post "and she's safe") and so yes, I will be vaccinating my daughters.
So, what's the biggest myth about HPV? I'd have to say that people believe you have to have sex to catch it. HPV is spread from direct skin-to-skin contact- no sex of any kind needed. Condoms can't cover all the area that can harbor HPV, so they can't fully protect against it. Genital warts can show up anywhere that there was direct contact- from the upper thighs, to the anus, to the standard "private parts", and they are no fun to have treated. Having said that, don't wait to come in if you think you have a wart, because the smaller and fewer they are, the easier they are to treat!
Second biggest myth is that genital warts turn into cancer- NOT TRUE! The types of HPV that cause 90% of genital warts do NOT cause cancer.
BOTTOM LINE: HPV is VERY COMMON in the United States. I recommend Gardasil (and no, I'm not on Merck's payroll in any way, shape or form!). Warts do NOT turn into cancer, but untreated silent HPV might- get those Pap smears!

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