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Dr. Coburn Says Federal Inaction One Cause of HPV Epidemic

Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn Says Federal Inaction One Cause of HPV Epidemic

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), a practicing physician who has cared for numerous patients diagnosed with HPV and related conditions, released the following statement today regarding troubling new statistics that show that more than 25 percent of U.S. women ages 14-59 are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer.

"The silent epidemic of HPV infection in America is, in part, the consequence of years of inaction by federal health agencies. In 2000, Congress passed the HPV prevention and education act which was signed by President Bill Clinton. This law required the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to educate the public and health care providers about HPV and directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to relabel condoms to alert users that condoms do not provide effective protection against HPV. More than six years later, however, both agencies have failed to abide by the law. Now, millions of women who were denied potentially life saving information are now infected with HPV," Dr. Coburn said.

Dr. Coburn encouraged women and families affected by HPV and cervical cancer who believe that they were harmed during the past six years because of federal agencies' failures to enact the law to contact his office.

"These latest statistics provide millions of new reasons - with each number representing one of our daughters, sisters, friends, or neighbors - why the CDC and FDA should take immediate actions to abide with the law and educate the public about HPV. The continued cover-up of the HPV epidemic undermines the scientific integrity of both agencies and threatens the health of millions of Americans," Dr. Coburn said.

Approximately 25 million women are currently infected with HPV and 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2006, more than 9,700 women were diagnosed with and 3,700 women died from cervical cancer in the United States. HPV infection is also associated with other cancers and more than one million pre-cancerous lesions.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), "condoms are ineffective against HPV." While an HPV vaccine has been recently approved by the FDA, it provides immunity against only four of the many strains of HPV. According to the CDC, "About 30 percent of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine."

CDC also notes "the available scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend condoms as a primary prevention strategy for the prevention of genital HPV infection" and "abstaining from sexual activity (i.e. refraining from any genital contact with another individual) is the surest way to prevent infection."

The data published in the February 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Dunn et al, "Prevalence of HPV Infection Among Females in the United States"), are the first to provide a national estimate of HPV infection that accurately represents the extent of HPV infection in American women. The study authors state, "Our data indicate that the burden of prevalent HPV infection among women was higher than previous estimates."

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