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HPV Infection & Cancer Risk

Updated: May 8, 2021

Chapter 6: Article 1

If we are going to discuss the short-comings about vaccines, it becomes useful to start by critically evaluating the facts and testing process for the newest licensed vaccines, which right now are the HPV vaccines. The newest vaccine is assumed to have been created and tested using the most modern and most technologically advanced medical science.

IF through a critical evaluation we discover any flaws or inadequacies in the newest vaccine's testing or function, then it also becomes reasonable to assume that older vaccines likely share, at minimum, those same deficiencies.

Before discussing HPV vaccine, it's important to first provide background about the illness, how cancer develops from it.

To begin, the FDA provides the following information:

There are over 100 different kinds of HPV and not all of them cause health problems. Some kinds of HPV may cause problems like genital warts. Some kinds of HPV can also cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, or anus. Most of these problems are caused by types 6, 11, 16 or 18.

To quote the manufacturer from the vaccine package insert for the Cervarix vaccine, it says:

Based on a large consensus among experts, the most common HPV types identified in cervical cancer worldwide were, in decreasing order of frequency, HPV-16, -18, -45, -31, -33, -52, -58, -35, -59, -56, -39, -51, -73, -68 and -66. 

According to the CDC (emphasis mine):

HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most people never know that they have been infected and may give HPV to a sex partner without knowing it. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV. About 14 million people in the United States become newly infected each year.

Dr. Diane Harper is a medical doctor who specializes in women's health and HPV infection. She was one of the principle investigators who worked with the HPV vaccine manufacturers, to help them design and manage their vaccine clinical trials. In a radio interview, she had the following to say:

My professional research career has been centered around women and abnormal pap smears and preventing cervical cancer. It was in the mid 1990s, when the two pharmaceutical companies, Merck and GSK, decided to pursue the commercialization and manufacturing of an HPV vaccine, but they needed to have the appropriate clinical trials designed and studied and presented to the FDA, for their business plan to be able to move forward. So there are not very many HPV experts in the world. There were about 50 of us who were gathered, independently first by Merck, and then most of us were gathered again by GSK, to work with them to design the clinical trials, design the endpoint, design the way in which we thought the science could best determine whether or not these vaccines would show any efficacy, safety and immunogenicity. So I was one of those very few American researchers that was involved on the clinical trial design side.

Interviewer asks: You were involved in the very formatting of the trials themselves, correct?

Dr. Harper's response: “Correct.”

Later in that interview she had the following to say:

We know that HPV infections occur at every single age of life. So, we know that kids from birth through the age of 11 - that 10% of those kids are going to have these high risk HPV types already, before anybody even talks about sexual activity….And then you look at this big peak between 16-24 years of age, where [HPV infection] goes up - to like 1 in 3 people have HPV infections. And then it drops back down again, but it never goes to zero. And what we see is that somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of women over the age of 30 continue to have HPV infections. We know that women in their 40s and 50s, sometimes their marriages fall apart, sometimes they see somebody new, sometimes their partner is seeing somebody new and brings something home to them, we see that there is an increase in HPV at that point in time…What we know, is that it takes HPV, if it’s going to stay around, it takes it a little while. As we said earlier, it might take decades before it actually goes into cancer. 

Before an HPV infection progresses into cancer, there are warning signs of prolonged infection that are usually detectable on a woman's cervix. The more serious degrees of infection, resulting from the higher risk HPV types, cause what are called CIN lesions on the cervix. To quote the UK Macmillan Cancer website (emphasis mine):

Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) is a term that describes changes in the squamous cells of the cervix.

CIN is not cancer, but you may need treatment to stop cervical cancer developing. You may hear doctors call CIN a pre-cancerous condition

You might not need treatment for CIN. If you do need treatment, it’s usually simple and very successful.

On another page within that same Macmillan website, they provide the following information:

CIN is graded depending on how deep the cell changes go into the surface of the cervix:

  • CIN 1 – one-third of the thickness of the surface layer is affected.

  • CIN 2 – two-thirds of the thickness of the surface layer is affected.

  • CIN 3 – the full thickness of the surface layer is affected.

Knowing the grade of your CIN helps your colposcopist plan the best treatment for you.

With all three grades of CIN, often only a small part of the cervix is affected by abnormal changes.

CIN 3 is also known as carcinoma-in-situ. Although this may sound like cancer, CIN 3 is not cervical cancer. Cancer develops when the deeper layers of the cervix are affected by abnormal cells. If CIN 3 is found during screening tests, it’s important to make a treatment plan.

It also becomes important to state what the rate and risk are for a CIN lesion progressing into cervical cancer. To quote Dr. Diane Harper again, this time from an interview she gave for the "One More Girl" Documentary, she said:

What we know is that if you look at all of the women who get an HPV infection, approximately 70% of those are going to clear that infection all by themselves, within the first year, with no help from anybody. You don’t have to detect it and you don’t have to make it go away. The body is going to take over and do it. Within two years, about 90% of all of those HPV infections are going to clear all by themselves. Now by three years you’ve got 10% of that original group of women that had HPV infections that are left. By three years, half of those infections have progressed into what we call a CIN2/3 lesion, or a pre-cancerous lesion...What we know then is that amongst women with CIN 3 lesions, so that’s a little bit more severe than the other group, it takes five years for about 20% of them to become invasive carcinomas. That’s a pretty slow process. It takes about 30 years for 40% of them to become invasive cervical carcinomas.

In a Huffington Post article, Dr. Harper explains that without pap screening, the rate of cervical cancer is 90 cases for every 100,000 people. Of course, it needs to be repeated and emphasized that with regular pap screenings, almost NONE of those CIN 2 or 3 lesions are able progress into cancer. With pap screening, that cancer rate of 90 diagnoses per 100,000 people, dropped down to 7 cases per 100,000.

The Canadian Cervarix vaccine package insert states this clearly, and goes on to explain that the annual mortality rate is 2 deaths per 100,000 people. To quote the vaccine package insert, it states (emphasis mine):

Despite the significant reduction in the burden of disease from cervical cancer since the introduction of cervical cancer screening [pap smears], new cases and deaths from cervical cancer continue, with approximately 1350 new cases and 390 deaths from cervical cancer estimated in 2012. 

To provide a comparison of cervical cancer rates to other cancers, The Canadian Cancer website estimated that in 2017, 26,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5000 will die, an incidence rate of 131.5 cancer diagnoses per 100,000 population. As well, that website also estimated that in 2017, approximately 28,600 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and that 21,100 Canadians will die, meaning there are approximately 141.8 cases of lung cancer in every 100,000 people. 

Of course any death from any illness is equally devastating. I provide this comparison of statistics, not to minimize the loss of life from cervical cancer, but rather, to enlighten the reader as to the various degrees of risk they face.

So as stated, nearly 100% of people will experience an HPV infection at some point in their life, with the very rare few infections (7/100,000) resulting in a cervical cancer diagnosis. In contrast, the Statistics Canada website states that only 18.1% (a 2014 figure) of Canadians are smokers, yet 141.8 /100,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer. 

It can therefore be said that if an HPV infection were a sole trigger, causing cervical cancer without any help from other factors, in the same way that smoking, by itself, can cause lung cancer, then cervical cancer rates would be significantly higher than they are.

Dr. Deirdre Little has researched HPV infection thoroughly, and in a lecture, she explains:

HPV is found in most of the cancer of the cerivx. It’s found in 99.7%. However, it’s not the only cause. It’s a necessary, though not sufficient cause for development of cancerof the cervix. We do know that smoking plays a role, the pill plays a role, and we think heredity plays a role.

CONTINUE to the next article Ch6: Article 2

Article Sources Here

  • FDA information on HPV Here

  • CDC information on HPV Here

  • Cervical Cancer information provided by MacMillan in the UK - Here and Here

  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Here and Here

  • Canadian statistics on smoking Here

  • Radio interview available on Youtube with HPV expert, Dr. Diane Harper Here

  • One More Girl Documentary excerpt - statement by Dr. Harper Here

  • Huffington Post Interview with Dr. Harper Here

  • Lecture on HPV by Dr. Deirdre Little Here

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