Study reaffirms need for HPV vaccine

February 22, 2010

As a current female student at a local university where almost 30 percent of the students smoke, Thomas H. Maugh's article "Study: Smoking adds risk for HPV-linked head, neck tumors" (Feb. 16) caught my attention by attributing the human papillomavirus (HPV) to a number of tumors in the heads and necks of patients, as well as linking these tumors to patients who were current or former tobacco users.

HPV is a common virus that is passed on through genital contact, most often during sex. There is a vaccine that prevents about 70 percent of the 40 types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is given in three shots over six months. I've always believed that girls should get the HPV vaccine, and after reading in this article that a relationship has been identified between smoking and HPV, there's even more of a reason to get the shots.

As a future health care professional, I'm concerned that not enough of my fellow co-eds have taken the necessary steps to get this vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in the United States. If one is correct in assuming that smoking increases the risk of cancer caused by HPV, then getting the vaccine is more important than ever. Cancer has already claimed the lives of two women in my extended family, and the vaccine is one tool in our limited arsenal to combat this deadly disease. Let's use it!

Jamie Scott, Clarksville

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