I’m sure you heard the big news in health care a few days ago. The FDA approved the first cervical cancer vaccine.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? After all, Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, president of the American Cancer Society, calls it “one of the most important advances in women’s health in recent years.”
The transmission factor
The vaccine is called Gardasil, and it’s been shown to offer 100 percent protection against strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause the overwhelming majority of all cervical cancers. (I’ve read various estimates stating that anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of cervical cancers are prompted by HPV infection.)
But here’s the wrinkle: HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. (In fact, it’s the most common STD.) So the vaccine is only effective when given to females between the ages of nine and 26 who are not sexually active. But this sexual element has opened up a contentious debate over whether or not the vaccine should be mandatory for young girls.
Although almost nothing gets under my craw more than the words “mandatory” and “medication” in the same sentence, I’m not going to open that can of worms today. Perhaps the most important fact that’s being widely overlooked (deliberately?) is that HPV is easily detected and treated when women have regular gynecological exams. And as every woman knows, regular exams will still be necessary after receiving the vaccine. So why bother with a vaccine?
Well, I can think of one reason to bother. According to the Associated Press, industry analysts predict that Gardasil may exceed $1 billion in yearly sales for Merck, the maker of the vaccine.
Making it moot
I asked HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., his take on Gardasil, and he didn’t mince words: “I’m not buying the vaccine for cervical cancer one bit. We’re experimenting on women. Look at all the drugs that have been pulled after being advertised (and FDA approved) as a ‘wonder drug.’
“Another reason I’m negative about such a ‘preventive’ is that I believe this cancer can be prevented anyway. I’ve had several women with bad Pap smears revert to normal after using L. acidophilus intra-vaginally (after all, that’s all Doderlein’s Bacilli are in the first place – the medical people just change the name of the bugs in the vagina to make it sound scientific), along with high-dose B-6, magnesium and folic acid orally, and B-12 sub-lingually (along with getting off the Pill).”
Dr. Spreen also steered me to a cervical cancer study that Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., wrote about in his Nutrition & Healing newsletter in May of 2000.
The study was conducted by Maria Bell, M.D., a women’s cancer specialist who tested a substance called indole-3-carbinol (I 3C) extracted from Brassica (cruciferous) vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and bok choy.
Dr. Bell recruited 30 patients who had either stage two or three cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia. (Stages two and three involve cancer that’s somewhat developed, with possible local lymph-node involvement.) Diagnosis and follow up was conducted with Pap smears, colposcopy exams and biopsies.
For 12 weeks, 10 subjects took 400 mg of I 3C daily, 10 took 200 mg of I 3C, and 10 took a placebo. After three subjects dropped out of the study, Dr. Bell reported these results:
In the 400 mg group, 4 of 9 patients had complete regression
In the 200 mg group, 4 of 8 had complete regression
In the placebo group, no subjects had complete regression
Dr. Wright adds: “It’s also a reasonable prediction that regular eating of these vegetables and/or taking I 3C or di-indolylmethane will prevent a significant proportion of cervical cancers; this has already been shown to be the case for Brassica consumption and prostate cancer.”
Di-indolylmethane (DIM) is another substance found in cruciferous vegetables and is also available in supplement form.
So let’s not consider forcing this vaccine on our nine-year-old girls when there are so many other safe, effective options.
“FDA Approves Cervical Cancer Vaccine” Andrew Bridges, Associated Press, 6/9/06, ap.org
“Preventing and Curing Cancer of the Cervix” Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., Nutrition & Healing, May 2000, wrightnewsletter.com