Should women in their 20s and 30s get the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine has been making headlines. "It's been targeted toward younger females, 13 and 14, and I was wondering its effects and if it was worthwhile for females already sexually active in their 20s and 30s," Colleen asks.

So what is HPV? "Human papillomavirus. It's the venereal wart virus. But this vaccine came out to protect women against certain strains of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer," Dr. Northrup says. "That vaccine is of great interest to me because there are over 100 different HPV types and this vaccine only targets four of them, and although they are associated with cervical cancer, nobody has ever proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that HPV is the cause of cervical cancer."

Dr. Northrup says only 3,500 women a year die of cervical cancer. "And the number decreases every year, so we're doing very well with Pap smears and other screening tests. So you should keep having those," she says.

But Dr. Northrup has some apprehension about the vaccine itself. "I'm very concerned about vaccinating girls 9 and over, every single one of them, with two vaccines," she says. "And I'm a little against my own profession. My own profession feels that everyone should be vaccinated."

Dr. Northrup would rather see the attention HPV is receiving directed elsewhere. "You see HPV associated with abnormal Pap smears in women who are on immunosuppressant drugs who have had kidney transplants or who have HIV disease. So it seems that that virus is associated with cancer in those whose immune system is already depressed, you see. So it's like a marker for a depressed immune system. Where I'd put my money is getting everybody on a dietary program that would enhance their immunity, and then they would be able to resist that sort of thing."

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Feb. 3, 2008 at 11:08 AM I don't think women should be forced in getting that. I wouldn't. I'm not.

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Feb. 3, 2008 at 12:45 PM I saw that Oprah that doc!! Great info, thanks for sharing:)

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