Hello WHRI followers,
Today’s blog entry consists of a summary of two topics in the recent health media that affect women’s health in significant ways. Hope you enjoy….
A quick review of my blogging history (here, or here, or here) reveals that I’m primarily focused on HPV and cervical cancer prevention so the first of these stories is especially exciting for me. In last week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a large study conducted in Vietnam was published that investigated whether it was any less effective, or any more risky, to deliver the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescent girls using dosing schedules that differ from the standard schedule. Over 900 adolescent girls were randomly assigned to receive the HPV vaccine (Gardasil, Merck) on one of four schedules. The standard intramuscular injection schedule (at 0, 2, and 6 months) was compared with 3 alternative schedules (at 0, 3, and 9 months; 0, 6, and 12 months; or 0, 12, and 24 months). The promising news is that the researchers found that receiving either the standard or the alternative schedules was effective and well-tolerated in the study participants. These results have far-reaching implications since women living in developing countries account for an estimated 88% of cervical cancer deaths and the option of delivering the HPV vaccine on flexible schedules may allow resource-limited countries to minimize costs while maximizing feasibility according to local context and vaccination practices.
The second story appeals to one of my pet-projects that questions the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising in our constantly evolving healthcare system. It made me ask myself: would I ever consider testing to see if my children are genetically predisposed to illnesses like diabetes or heart disease? Would you? Well, a study reported in the Vancouver Sun today showed that many parents in the U.S. say they would. The study raises new questions about direct-to-consumer genetic tests, a growing concern amongU.S. lawmakers and regulators. The study authors surveyed 219 parents who were offered a genetic test. These tests screened for eight health condition including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, as well as colon, skin and lung cancers. The results showed significant parental interest for doing this kind of testing in their children. Interestingly, a noted risk of direct-to-consumer genetic tests is that, unlike a test that is ordered by a doctor, these tests are sold directly to parents and the results are usually delivered through the web or the mail. This means there is no one there to explain the results, to offer any context around any identified ‘risks’, or to offer any professional counsel. Regulators fear that many people may not be equipped to interpret the results or to understand the real limitations of these tests. However, some argue that early testing of children might motivate parents to take healthier steps now to prevent these conditions from developing. Where do you stand on the issue? I still need to consider it. I find it amazing how our progress in understanding the human body has introduced so many different questions than were ever dreamed possible in our parents’ generation. Wherever your opinion lies in this debate, I think most would agree that this study should serve as a reminder for clinicians and policy-makers to consider children when regulating genetic tests.
Hope you enjoyed the news update this week and talk to you soon,
Giulia Muraca, BSc, MPH
Research Program Manager
BC HPV Research Group