Sunday, October 23, 2011

Venereal Disease on the Rise in Women

According to the New York Times, pre-cancerous genital growths are becoming significantly more common in women -especially those in their 40s. A medical group reported a fourfold increase in women from 1973 to 2000. Human Papilloma Virus is the cause of most of the growths and is known to cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus and parts of the throat. The growths, called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, can be removed by surgery, lasers or drugs. Dr. Massad, a professor at WashU-St. Louis and a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the aforementioned medical group) says that most specialists are seeing more cases than the past- at least one a week. But Massad is also concerned with over-treatment - many of the genital abnormalities are just non-cancerous warts, and don't need to be aggressively removed.
Some doctors think that the increases in pre-cancerous growths are due to people having more sexual partners and giving themselves more opportunities to get infected to HPV. According to the researchers, more than 50% of sexually active men and women become infected and 80% of women have been exposed by the time they are 50. While more people are developing growths, rates vulvar cancer are not increasing, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is possible that the growths are being appropriately treated, or that not enough time has passed to the cancer to develop.
It will be interesting to watch HPV-related cancer rates in the future - and this article really puts into perspective how important getting the HPV vaccine in childhood/early adulthood can be. The vaccine, Gardasil, was made to prevent cervical cancer, but can also help precent the growths (cancerous and non-cancerous alike) from developing, although only the growths caused by HPV. Those caused by herpes viruses are another can of worms, so to speak.

read the article.

-Emily Pollock

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