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Do Vaccines Against Cancer Work?

Do Vaccines Against Cancer Work?

A lot of misconceptions and controversy surround vaccines, especially in terms of their effectiveness and side effects. Many believe that vaccines can can do more harm than good. However, immunization can and continues to save millions of lives all over the globe. So do vaccines against cancer work?

Immunization is the process of administering a vaccine to help prevent diseases. Developments in the field of medicine have resulted in many vaccines that can completely eliminate one’s risk of diseases such as measles, malaria, influenza, and etc. Vaccines can also help ward off viral infections that may cause other diseases such as cancer.

vaccines against cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases that are characterized by the development of abnormal cells in certain parts of the body. Today, scientists and doctors are still unsure about the definite cause of cancer and many still succumb to the disease. Vaccines are one way to prevent cancer even before the risk arises.

Learn more about vaccines, and what specific vaccines can prevent cancer.

What Are Vaccines?

When viruses or bacteria enter your body, the immune system responds by fighting off the intruder. Feeling sick or under the weather is usually an indication that your body is trying to get rid of a virus. Vaccines are a type of medication that are able to stimulate the body’s immune system without actually having to be exposed to a certain illness or disease.

This is why vaccines are important. Instead of getting treated for a certain illness, vaccines make sure that the body already knows how to fend off specific viruses so that you’re basically immune. Vaccines work by:

  • Making sure that the immune system remembers a certain germ.
  • Stimulates the immune system to make antibodies, which are naturally produced by the immune system in response to certain bacteria or viruses.
  • Trains the immune system on how to respond to a germ if the body encounters it in the future.

Why Should You Get Vaccinated?

Most of the criticism towards vaccines are founded on misconceptions that hold no truth. In reality, vaccines are the safest way you can prevent infectious diseases. The following are a few reasons why you should get vaccinated:

  • Vaccines can give you protection against a specific virus without having to get sick.
  • The diseases that vaccines prevent still exist, which means that you can still get them especially if you opt to not get vaccinated.
  • Getting vaccinated is cheaper compared to the expense of getting treated for a certain disease.
  • Vaccines can protect children and infants because most vaccines can be administered at a young age.

Vaccines That Prevent Cancer

A vaccine for cancer is yet to be created because cancer is caused by cells, which are made by the body. This can be trickier for the immune system to detect considering that it isn’t a foreign body such as a virus or bacteria that the immune system is trained to fight.

Vaccines against cancer are not specifically created to directly prevent cancer itself. However, there are existing vaccines that can ward off viral infections that can lead to certain types of cancer.

Examples of vaccines that can prevent diseases linked to cancer are the following:

HPV Vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that can be transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. It is the most common type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and can cause genital warts or cancer if left untreated. HPV can be grouped into two types namely:

  • Low-risk HPV: This type of HPV doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, and may go away on its own
  • High-risk HPV: This type of HPV can be chronic, and with time the affected cells can mutate into cancer cells.HPV 16 and HPV 18 are usually categorized as “high-risk” because they can cause cancer over time.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children as young as 9 years old can get vaccinated against HPV. Ideally, the vaccine should be administered when the child is between the ages of 11 to 12 years old. Usually, the vaccine comes in two doses.

Adults who are not older than 26 years old can be vaccinated as well. This can prevent new infections of HPV for those who are sexually active. Getting vaccinated greatly reduces an individual’s risk of the following cancers:

  • Vulvar Cancer
  • Vaginal Cancer
  • Anal Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Oropharyngeal Cancer
  • Penile Cancer
  • Mouth and Throat Cancer

HPV and Cervical Cancer: What’s the connection?

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B is a liver infection that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). The infection is transmitted from person to person through contact with infected body fluid such as blood or semen. Hepatitis B can be passed on through sexual contact, sharing needles, or even from mother to baby during birth.

Types of Hepatitis B include:

  • Acute Hepatitis B Infection: This type of Hepatitis B doesn’t last very long but will cause symptoms such as fatigue, vomiting, and a notable symptom called jaundice which involves yellowing of the eyes and the skin.
  • Chronic Hepatitis B Infection: When the Hepatitis B virus doesn’t leave the body, it can cause a chronic liver infection eventually leading to scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis) or even liver cancer. This is why getting vaccinated for Hepatitis B can be one way to greatly reduce your risk of developing cancer.

The CDC recommends that the Hepatitis B vaccine should be given through succeeding shots starting from a child’s birth until they are six months old. However, the vaccine is recommended for those who are at risk of developing this infection.

Key Takeaways

Vaccines are types of medicines that help the immune system to familiarize and fend off certain diseases even if the body has not yet been exposed to a particular virus or bacteria.

Despite the fact that there is no existing vaccine against cancer, other vaccines such as the Hepatitis B Vaccine or the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine are types of vaccines that can reduce your chances of cancer by preventing a disease that may lead to the development of cancer cells.

Learn more about cancer, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Q&A on Vaccines https://www.who.int/vaccines/questions-and-answers/q-a-on-vaccines Accessed December 20, 2020

Vaccines: The Basics https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/vpd-vac-basics.html Accessed December 20, 2020

Antibody https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Antibody Accessed December 20, 2020

10 Reasons to Get Vaccinated https://www.nfid.org/immunization/10-reasons-to-get-vaccinated/ Accessed December 20, 2020

Cancer Vaccines: Preventive, Therapeutic, Personalized https://www.cancerresearch.org/immunotherapy/treatment-types/cancer-vaccines Accessed December 20, 2020

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv Accessed December 20, 2020

HPV and Cancer https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-and-cancer Accessed December 20, 2020

Hepatitis B https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/index.htm#:~:text=Hepatitis%20B%20is%20a%20vaccine,someone%20who%20is%20not%20infected Accessed December 20, 2020

Hepatitis B Vaccine: What You Need to Know https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-b.html Accessed December 20, 2020

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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos on Dec 20, 2020
Medically reviewed by Dr. John Paul Abrina, M.D.
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