Tag Archives: vaccines

“Oral Sex”: Forbidden Subject + HPV Causes Cancer

Debbie says:

I was browsing something else the other day when I saw a sidebar headline that said, more or less, “Michael Douglas reveals that oral sex caused his throat cancer.” I didn’t click the link at the time.

Today, I find Jessica Luther saying “We need a better way to talk about cunnilingus.”

So, Michael Douglas mentioned cunnilingus in an interview (and whether he *should* have is a different post) and everyone blushed, giggled, and immediately stopped making eye contact with everyone else. Or they said “gross” and acted like they were embarrassed for him.”

  • I wish Douglas good luck with his health; he has been through hard times and is still undergoing regular check-ups for recurrence.
  • Of course we don’t have a good way to talk about cunnilingus. We don’t have a good way to talk about any kind of sex, pretty much, and the ways that please women are lowest on the list. Douglas may (I hope!) be moving us further along the trail blazed by Lorena Bobbitt in 1993, when she cut off the end of her husband John’s dick and forced the national news to learn how to say “penis” on television.
  • I think Douglas absolutely should have talked about this. I didn’t know about the link between oral sex and oral cancers (and I’m pretty well informed about these things, which means lots of other people also don’t know), so good on him for publicizing it. Also, despite what headlines you may have read, he absolutely did not say that oral sex caused his throat cancer: he said it might have done so, which is accurate.
  • It also means he goes down on his lovers, which not all (heterosexual) men do, and not all (heterosexual) men who do will admit, so good on him for that.

Digging a little into the link between oral sex and oral cancer immediately leads to HPV (human papillomavirus) as the cause. I was already aware of the link between HPV and cervical cancer, and wrote here several years ago about some of the controversy surrounding HPV vaccination.At least one study seems to show that oral sex in the presence of HPV not only causes oral cancers, the presence of HPV also vastly increases a person’s likelihood of surviving oral cancers when they happen.

Two vaccines against HPV exist; both are generally only effective in people young enough not to have been exposed to HPV. Both are owned and marketed by Big Pharma, which has a vested interest in making them mandatory. (Why did so-called conservative Texas governor Rick Perry support mandatory HPV vaccination? Whose pocket was he in?) Both are better tested in teenage girls than in teenage boys, though there is data indicating that they may be effective with boys as well.

Vaccines in general are surprisingly (and indefensibly) controversial in the United States in the 21st century. The HPV vaccine would almost certainly be controversial even in the days when vaccination was taken for granted, because it implies to parents that their children might *gasp* be sexually active. I continue to believe, as I did in 2007, that I would encourage a pre-teen daughter to get the vaccine; I would do some more research before encouraging a son to do the same (and a son might only be able to depending on where he was living at the time).  I’d also like to see more data on the link between HPV and survival of oral cancers.

The more transparent we can be, the more we can talk about sexual behaviors in a calm, reasoned manner, the better off we are. We’d probably have better ways to talk about sex if we didn’t wait for movies stars and knife-wielding abused wives to open the dialogue, rather than paying attention to scientists and study results. Similarly, we probably wouldn’t wait for the movie stars and knife wielders if we had better ways to talk about sex.

Combatting Anti-Science, Anti-Vaccination Propaganda in My Workplace

Debbie says:

I work in a reasonably liberal, forward-looking intelligent office in San Francisco (as long as we don’t get into classism issues, which is a whole different post). Yesterday, as part of “Wellness Week,” our wonderful office manager hired a local speaker (Dr. Terrance Stackwood, a chiropractor in San Francisco) to talk about nutrition and stress reduction. I didn’t go and, apparently, the presentation was poorly attended–and most of the attendees were guilted in so the speaker wouldn’t be speaking to an almost empty room.

I’m really glad I didn’t go, because after some basic health platitudes, Dr. Stackwood  apparently launched into an anti-vaccination rant. One amusing aspect of this is that today’s wellness week event is free flu shots (!) His primary argument was the completely disproved one about the dangers of formaldehyde. (In fact, the amount of formaldehyde in an average vaccination dose is so small that it does not statistically increase the amount of naturally occurring formaldehyde in the body, including in the body of an infant.)

Apparently, most of the several people in the room were uncomfortable, but no one said anything. If I had been there, it would have gone differently. A co-worker discussed it with me shortly after the presentation was over. After talking to Laurie, I wrote the following letter. I’m reproducing all of it here because it includes good references if you ever get into an argument with an anti-vaccination person.

At the advice of the president of the San Francisco branch of the company, who sits right by me, I sent it to the head of Human Resources for San Francisco, rather than the office manager. The president was horrified that this had happened. The Director of Human Resources responded quickly to tell me she was in complete agreement. I think Dr. Stackwood will not be asked back.


Hi, [HR Director],

I did not attend today’s presentation by Dr. Stackwood and, in the end, I’m really glad I didn’t, because I would not have been able to keep from being disruptive. Apparently, according to at least two folks who were there, he took an active anti-vaccination position, because of the “danger of formaldehyde.” This position is completely unscientific and, in fact, is actively dangerous to public health. It should never be embraced by a science-based, evidence-based organization like [my employer].

I want to stress at the beginning that I don’t think this was anyone’s fault (except Dr. Stackwood’s). I also don’t think he did any harm, given the small audience, and the good sense and ability to evaluate information of our colleagues. It’s just something we shouldn’t repeat, and most of this email consists of reasons why it matters.

I see that Dr. Stackwood is a chiropractor, and he hasn’t been published, in book or article form, by our company. I feel confident that we can find health and nutrition experts with more status; in fact, I would be happy to help look for someone for next year.

Here’s a link that demonstrates the bottom line—lack of vaccination causes illness and death:

Measles cases are spiking sharply in the U.S., the CDC reported today.

The 222 cases and 17 outbreaks seen in 2011 are nearly four times the median of 60 cases and four outbreaks per year seen over the last decade. A third of patients were hospitalized.

The surge in cases is largely due to people who have not been vaccinated with the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, the CDC says. A significant percentage of these people are children and teens whose parents exempted them from school vaccination requirements.

Unvaccinated people put themselves and others at risk — particularly infants too young to be vaccinated, who can have the most severe complications,” Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said …

Thanks to high vaccination rates in the 1990s, the U.S. eliminated year-round measles transmission in 2000. But the current spike in cases threatens that achievement.

Schuchat pointed to France, which was down to about 40 measles cases per year. Suddenly that went to 604 cases in 2008, over 5,000 cases in 2010, and over 15,000 cases in 2011.

“You can go from a small number to a very large number of measles cases very quickly,” Schuchat warned.

Fortunately there were no measles deaths in the U.S. in 2011, although one infant in intensive care had a narrow brush with death. Before the measles vaccine came along in 1957, there were one to three deaths for every 1,000 cases. Worldwide, measles kills 164,000 people a year.

Here’s an academic journal link:

Vaccines are among the most effective and cost-effective means for the prevention of disease. The development of viral vaccines predates the recognition of viral agents as causes of disease by over a century; their use has resulted in marked decreases in the incidence or eradication of diseases that were important causes of human mortality. Vaccines are now available to prevent 13 viral diseases, and new generations of vaccines being developed through molecular techniques hold the promise of providing protection against others.

The development of successful disease control programs requires safe and effective vaccines and effective public health strategies to prevent disease. Strategies for vaccine use are based on knowledge of epidemiology, consideration of whether eradication or reduction of disease is the primary goal, and the potential for implementing effective programs to deliver vaccines either to the entire population or to target groups.

Childhood immunization programs are now recommended in all countries and have resulted in substantial declines in the occurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases in both developed and developing countries.

Here’s a science-based link specifically about the indefensible position that formaldehyde in vaccines is dangerous.

The average quantity of formaldehyde to which a young infant could be exposed at one time may be as high as 0.2 mg (see table below). This quantity of formaldehyde is considered to be safe for two reasons:

  • First, formaldehyde is essential in human metabolism and is required for the synthesis of DNA and amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Therefore, all humans have detectable quantities of natural formaldehyde in their circulation (about 2.5 ug of formaldehyde per ml of blood). Assuming an average weight of a 2-month-old of 5 kg and an average blood volume of 85 ml per kg, the total quantity of formaldehyde found in an infant’s circulation would be about 1.1 mg, a value at least five-fold greater than that to which an infant would be exposed in vaccines.
  • Second, quantities of formaldehyde at least 600 fold greater than that contained in vaccines have been given safely to animals.

Finally, here’s another science-based examination of the anti-vaccine movement, and its complete willingness to ignore science, research, and data in the desire to fuel anti-government fears:

Given that vaccines as a whole are extensively studied in infants and that we have longstanding historical evidence of vaccine safety, this “toxins” gambit is nothing more than a ploy that (1) appeals to the fear of chemicals with complicated, nasty-sounding names; (2) plays on the scientific ignorance of the American public, many of whom don’t understand the concept of dose-response and think that it’s possible to eliminate nasty chemicals completely; and (3) produces an intentionally impractical regulatory hurdle that vaccines must overcome, as each and every component, seemingly, must be studied individually in individual clinical trials, regardless of existing evidence. One wonders if Sears realizes the implication of his argument. Would we have to test the buffer solution that is used for safety, even though it’s usually something like phosphate-buffered normal saline? Or what about formaldehyde, which is a normal byproduct of metabolism and is present in vaccines at levels far below what is already in the infant’s body to begin with?

I could go on for weeks. And, of course, the anti-vaccination folks can provide just as many links. What they can’t provide is any respectable science to back up their claims.

Thanks for thinking about this, and I hope I didn’t bombard you with too much information.