By Kathleen O'Neil
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, and a new vaccine against several of the most common strains of the virus now is available.
But state government proposals to make the vaccine mandatory for teenage girls have raised concerns among some parents who wonder about the safety of the vaccine, or whether it sends teens the wrong message about condoning sexual activity.
As society grapples with the issues, a panel of experts will convene at City of Hope to talk about the facts behind the debate. The Spring Forum — called “HPV Vaccine: What’s best for our children?” — will be held May 17.
The forum will include these panelists: California Assemblymember Ed Hernandez, O.D., sponsor of legislation that could lead to mandated HPV vaccinations for public school girls in California; gynecologic oncologist and UCLA professor Ilana Cass, M.D.; the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Laurel Fowler, M.P.H; and Sharon P. Wilczynski, M.D., Ph.D., a gynecologic pathologist at City of Hope who has studied the links between HPV and cancer.
Patricia Neighmond, health policy correspondent for National Public Radio, will moderate the panel. The forum is free and open to the public.
About 6.2 million people contract HPV every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is most common in women and men in their late teens and early 20s. People can become infected through genital contact and can pass the virus on to their sexual partners without realizing it.
Most people who become infected with HPV experience no symptoms and clear the infection on their own. Some strains may cause mild Pap test abnormalities or genital warts. However, other HPV strains can lead to tumors (such as throat cancer) in both men and women.
More than 11,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with new cases of cervical cancer and about 4,000 women die of the disease each year.
The Spring Forum, which is open to the public, will be held in Cooper Auditorium from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on May 17.