The End Of Cervical Cancer?

Some fantastic news about vaccines

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd

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Pictured: Cancer cells. I couldn’t find cervical cancer cells, but the only people who’ll be able to tell the difference are pathologists and they spend most of their time in dark rooms by themselves anyway. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

There’s no two ways about it: cancer is shit. There are thousands of diseases that make up the thing that we collectively describe as cancer, and while they are all incredibly diverse they all have one thing in common, which is that they all really, really suck.

For everyone who hates cancer, there’s some fantastic news out recently. Cervical cancer, a pretty nasty disease that kills many thousands of women each year, may be gone for good within our lifetimes. It’s genuinely nothing short of a miracle.

The Science

In the late 90s and early 00s, scientists had a great idea — “what if we developed a vaccine the prevented cancer?”. And, after being informed that we already had one — the hepatitis B vaccine, which prevents liver cancer — they said “well what if we had another one?”. We knew by then that the disease human papillomavirus — HPV, which causes warts on the genitals and elsewhere in the body — caused most cases of cervical cancer in humans. We also knew that it was in theory possible to prevent diseases like this from infecting humans using vaccines, because it had been done many times before.

Putting these two together, we developed the HPV vaccine in 2006. The full story is well worth reading if you’ve got the time, but…

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