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HPV Vaccine: Good News, Bad News

Vaccine Stops 2 Cervical Cancer Viruses -- but Only 'Modest' Overall Cancer Protection Seen

Different Experts, Different Opinions continued...

Smith-McCune is associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. She's also the mother of two daughters.

"I am not having my daughters vaccinated because the proven method of reducing their risk with regular Pap screening is very effective," she says. "In the absence of safety and efficacy data in the 11- to 12-year-old age group, and the unknown long-term effect of this vaccine in all age groups, it is too soon to recommend this vaccine."

Gynecologist Brian Slomovitz, MD, of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, disagrees with Smith-McCune. He says that even with regular Pap screening, many young women will have to have precancerous cervical lesions removed -- procedures that may result in pregnancy complications.

"Cervical precancers are a big problem, and genital warts are a huge problem," Slomovitz tells WebMD. "The ultimate value of the HPV vaccine is to reduce deaths due to cervical cancer, but it is also valuable for preventing high-grade cervical lesions and genital warts."

Ault agrees with Slomovitz.

"These studies are further proof that what we recommended last year was a good idea: This vaccine should be given to women age 9 to 26," he says.

Smith-McCune insists that too many questions remain about the HPV vaccine to recommend widespread vaccination of girls and young women.

"It is important to counter the sense of urgency of vaccinating the girls with the fact that cervical cancer is not an emergency in the U.S.," she says. "Any improvement that will reduce a woman's risk of cervical cancer is a great thing. We just don't have enough data to support that yet. The studies are ongoing. We have a lot to learn about the impact of this vaccine on precancer and cervical cancer."

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