Does Vaccination Prevent Cancer?

7 03 2011

The history of anxiety about possible negative effects of vaccines is long, tracing back at least as far as Benjamin Franklin. Countering these worries is the fact that vaccines are one of the greatest public health successes of our time, saving millions of lives worldwide.

Now we know that vaccine benefits may extend beyond prevention of the target childhood disease.

An already recognized extra benefit comes with the vaccines for varicella. A varicella vaccine not only can prevent chickenpox in young people, but may also stop the occurrence of shingles in older folks.

Shingles, a neurological attack by the chickenpox virus decades after an infection, can cause a rash that leaves behind chronic, unbearable pain. Vaccination in childhood may protect against shingles, and according to a new study from a Texas group, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, childhood vaccines may offer reduced odds of childhood cancer.

The researchers, going on hints from earlier studies, looked at vaccine rates in specific areas and compared those numbers to childhood cancer rates in the same region. While childhood cancers are rare, they are, of course, devastating. The most common cancers in children are leukemia and brain and spinal cord cancers. According to previous studies, some common childhood infections might increase a child’s risk of leukemia, while vaccinations might reduce that risk. It’s not a nutty idea that some infections—especially viral infections—might be associated with cancer. Indeed, a few viral infections have an established association, including human papillomavirus (HPV, associated with cervical and anal cancers), hepatitis B (associated with liver cancer), and Epstein-Barr (the “mono” virus, linked to a type of lymphoma).

The researchers looked at the 2800 cases of childhood cancer diagnosed in Texas from 1995 to 2006, focusing only on cases diagnosed in children two years or older. For every child diagnosed with cancer, the team identified four more children who had not had cancer, matched for age and sex. As a final step, they then mapped how many children from each group had been born in Texas counties with high vaccination rates.

Their results showed that where hepatitis B vaccination rates were high, odds of all childhood cancers fell by almost 20%. Where rates of inactivated polio virus, hepatitis B, or a specific mix of childhood vaccinations were high, odds of finding cases of a common childhood leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), dropped by as much as 38%. The biggest dip in odds came with higher rates of Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine and ALL, with a 42% decrease in ALL odds where Hib vaccination rates were high.

It’s important to remember that the authors didn’t establish a cause–effect link here. This study is based on the numbers, and the take-home message here is a simple one. The authors put it best in their abstract: “Some common childhood vaccines appear to be protective against ALL at the population level.”





HB FOUNDATION!

25 10 2010

We love the Hepatitis B Foundation and all the folks connected to the organization.  Here’s why: The Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) has been working for years to find a cure for those infected with HBV and to improve their quality of life. 

To help reach their goals, Joan and Tim Block and their partners at HBF established the Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research a few years ago. It’s a stunning achievement that continues to give hope to all families affected by HBV. 

The website provides many resources, such as an up-to-date listing of hepatitis B drugs, making it easy for parents and professionals to see what’s been approved by the FDA and what’s happening in clinical trials.

And, a few years ago, HBF received funding from the National Library of Medicine to provide a tutorial on searching for information on the Internet.  It’s a painless way to get an introduction to Medline, PubMed and other sites. Every parent we know wants to find out as much as possible about the virus that’s infected their child.

HBF holds three one-day patient workshops every year, each in a different city.  Workshop goals include increasing liver cancer screenings, informing patients about treatment options, and providing support to those affected by hepatitis b.

The foundation provides copious amounts of information on hepatitis B in English, as well as helpful “chapters” in other languages. 

If you or someone in your life is affected by hepatitis B, you should bookmark this website.  It might come in handy one day.





Itching to Get a Tattoo?

17 05 2010
A collection of tattoos.

Credit: Skype user "SwanDiamondRose"

Humans have adorned their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. Even the Iceman, whose remains are about 5,200 years old, was so marked.

Why, then, is tattooing viewed with raised eyebrows by parents and secret longing by our youth?

As parents, we’ll put aside the whole “It’s a lifelong commitment and that cute butterfly on your arm is going to go all funhouse mirror on you when you’re old!” thing, and concentrate on questions of health.

We can’t speak for the secret longing of youth because those years have evaporated into the ether for us.

So, the health of it…

Those tattoos aren’t painted on. Your skin is punctured and the ink injected underneath. Because of this, you may end up with severe and long-lasting itching, skin infections, or even HIV, hepatitis, or other bloodborne diseases.

Tattoo regulations vary by state, and sometimes within a county or city.  Some are governed by the health department, while others are regulated by the department of cosmetology.

While there are regulations, not all tattoo parlors are diligent in following safe, accepted precautions.

A professional tattoo artist takes pride in his artistry and safety habits, and will encourage you to ask questions. If you’re determined to get a tattoo, do yourself a favor and follow these suggestions:

  • Ask if you can observe a tattoo in process.
  • Look around and note the following about your tattooist and the parlor:
    • What are the qualifications of your tattoo artist?  Ask to see certificates and credentials.
    • Is the tattoo shop neat and clean?  Ask to see the autoclave. Does it work?
    • Does the artist wash his hands and use and dispose of sterile gloves appropriately?
    • Latex gloves can be used only with water based ointments.
    • All equipment including needles, tubes, pigments (ink), ointments and water must be single use only, and come out of sterile, sealed, dated packages, or disposed of after use.
    • Ensure that all non-disposable equipment is autoclaved.
    • Watch for cross-contamination.
    • Be sure that the area is completely disinfected after each client with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution.
    • Tell your tattooist if you’re pregnant or nursing, have a heart condition, severe eczema, or problems with keyloids. Your tattoo might have to wait, or may not be recommended.

This is not the time to look for a bargain!  If you want a tattoo, seek out a professional tattooist who is experienced, and follows strict safety practices in his tattoo shop.

And finally, please think twice about getting a tat where cellulite may form. It’s just, we can’t, it’s too…gah! (You’ll thank us later.)

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NVHR

9 06 2009

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) is a coalition working to eliminate viral hepatitis in the U.S.

nvhr-logo09

They have a Call to Action that, when implemented, will save lives by preventing infection.

Hepatitis B and C can cause cancer or even death in children and adults.

Join with the NVHR in asking that funds be put toward the elimination of these deadly diseases.

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Hep B Foundation Conference

15 05 2009

The Hepatitis B Foundation is having its annual B Informed Patient Conference.  We want folks to know about it, so here’s the info from their website and for registration details, click here:

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The 2009 B Informed Patient Conference, sponsored by the Hepatitis B Foundation in partnership with the Hepatitis B Information and Support List (HB-L), will be held June 26-27 at Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the home of the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Highlights of this year’s conference will include formal presentations by clinical and research experts with interactive Q & A sessions.

The keynote address will be given by Dr. Mack Mitchell, Director, Division of Gastroenterology and Digestive Diseases at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, will provide an update on the care and treatment of chronic hepatitis B in adults.

An update for children with chronic hepatitis B will be given by Dr. Barbara Haber, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Information about the new NIH HBV Clinical Research Network will be given by hepatologist Dr. Michael Fried, U. of North Carolina; an update on hepatitis B and liver cancer by Dr. Kenneth Rothstein, Drexel U. Liver Center; and the hepatitis B drug watch by Dr. Timothy Block, president of the Hepatitis B Foundation and professor at Drexel University College of Medicine.





Hepatitis B Vaccine Birth Dose

12 05 2009

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has the reputation of being a sexually transmitted disease.  That’s because it is an STD.  But, it’s also a virus that can pass from a mom to her newborn at or soon after birth.

Pregnant women can become infected with HBV and not know it, then pass it on to their newborns. OBs will test at-risk women early in the pregnancy and again at birth, but what if you’re not considered at-risk and you get infected? 

Giving a newborn the birth dose of the HBV vaccine is important because if a newborn becomes infected with hepatitis B, that baby has a 90 percent chance of staying infected – being chronically infected – for life.

This infection may never cause any harm, but it could cause liver damage, liver cancer or even death. 

Treatment options are not great and, because there is a vaccine for HBV, not a lot of money gets put into this research.  They’re not even searching for a cure, just possible ways to stop the damage caused by the viral infection.

Get vaccinated.  Get your babies and children vaccinated.  Hepatitis B is around and no one can say how it will act in any one body.  Why take the chance?