June 12, 2006

Cancer Vaccine

On June 8th, a vaccine called "Gardasil" was approved by the FDA. It does not grant immunity to a disease like measles, mumps or rubella. Instead, it will give young women an excuse to avoid those painful and uncomfortable pap-smear moments with their doctors! This vaccine targets the human papilloma virus (HPV) responsible for most types of cervical cancer.

I noticed that the press release of this vaccine was preceded by drug commercials saying "I didn't know that cervical cancer could be caused by a virus. A simple, common virus!" The disbelief these women display is amusing, but sobering at the same time because many people remain ignorant of the facts. It is interesting to note that a decade ago, people thought that our next big invention would be a cure for cancer. Now, it turns out to be much more complicated than that, since there are so many ways regular cells can be subverted to become cancerous.

However, there is a downside to providing a sure-fire cancer-preventer -- many abstinence-promoting groups are afraid that it will spread the message to teens that it is okay to have sex (since women will be safe from cervical cancer.)

I find it puzzling how these coservative groups can jump to such broad conclusions. It is basically saying "we don't want this risky behavior, so we'll remove some safety precautions that will save lives."
  1. We are afraid kids will get into risky vehicular accidents if we let them wear seatbelts!*
  2. We don't want children to smoke cigarettes, so we'll remove the filters on cigarettes.
  3. We don't want any kids to play with guns, so we'll permanently disable the safeties on them so they'll KNOW they are VERY DANGEROUS ITEMS!!!!
These situations just make the consequences that much more drastic. Their solutions do nothing to fix the problems and the end result is that it only aggravates them, instead of addressing root causes. THAT is the point. THAT is what they want. Abstinence does not become much of a virtue if using condoms and birth-control also lower the chances of getting STDs or getting pregnant. These groups want to punish people for behaviors that they see as evil (pre-marital sex) and this benefits the general public... how?

I don't understand how the riskiness of these actions acts as deterrents for kids. Ignorance and abstinence are not solutions that prevail over education and safety precautions (to be put in place in case the situation ever does come up)!

*An example provided by Alan M. Kaye, executive director of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition. "Just because you wear a seat belt doesn't mean you're seeking out an accident," Kaye said.

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