The University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center endorsed the human papillomavirus vaccine in a statement Jan. 27 calling it an important way to prevent cancer.

As a part of a group effort by National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers, the University released a statement saying the centers recognize low levels of HPV vaccination are a serious public health concern and are an opportunity to prevent many cases of cancer.

The University Health Service’s website emphasizes HPV’s potential to cause cervical cancer in women, which is the second leading cause of cancer in women and of genital warts in both men and women, according to UHS.

UHS recommends the vaccine for females 11 to 26 years old as well as males ages 11 to 21, and for males through age 26 who have sex with men or whose immune systems are weakened because of HIV infection, other illness or medications.

In an e-mail interview, Cancer Center Director Dr. Theodore Lawrence wrote that the NCI-Designated Cancer Centers hope the endorsement will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“There has been a disappointing uptake of the vaccine,” he wrote. “It was felt that an endorsement by all of the cancer centers would move the needle on vaccination.”

Though the work did not originate exclusively at the University of Michigan, Lawrence said he hoped campus will be impacted by the news, and that students who have not yet been vaccinated will take the time to do so.

“I have treated many patients with cervix cancer and cancers in the head and neck region, both of which can be caused by the virus,” Lawrence said. “Although many patients can be cured, many are not. Even under the best conditions, treatment has a lot of side effects and there is significant expense. Three injections of a vaccine can prevent all of this.”

Lawrence said he believes that vaccines for infectious diseases, including HPV, are truly life-saving, and that the benefits far outweigh the risks, especially when it comes to this vaccine.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that this vaccine is a dream come true,” he wrote.

The vaccine remains controversial because it is suggested to be administered at young ages and two children have died of early onset Lou Gehrig’s disorder after being given the vaccine, according to NPR. There have been no studies confirming these fears that vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, are dangerous to individuals’ health.  

LSA senior Alisha Vora, co-president of University Students Acting Against Cancer at the University, said she is glad that the University is promoting proactive ways to combat cancer. She said raising awareness about preventative measures is a key goal for her organization.

“Being proactive in whatever we can do is a really smart idea and I am glad that the University is on board,” Vora said. “It makes a lot of sense — if there is any way for us to prevent cancer and if it is something as easy as vaccinations that should definitely be promoted.”

Vora also said her club could use the news to raise awareness about specific kinds of cancer.

“Our club is very open to new ideas, we ask our club members if there is a specific kind of cancer that they want to raise money for or raise awareness about and we do it,” she said. “If this is something happening on campus I think it is a great thing to raise awareness about.”

Vora said she is hopeful about the future of cancer research and prevention, and believes that many students share her sentiment.

“A lot of us have been personally affected by cancer so it’s something that we all keep in our hearts; hearing great improvements that are happening, such as raising awareness about vaccinations that will help prevent cancer, is great — it is great to see us moving forward,” she said.


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