HPV Vaccines: Background information when reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

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Beyond the Book:
HPV Vaccines

Cervical cancer, the disease that killed Henrietta Lacks, strikes 11,000-13,000 women in the United States every year, killing 4,000. While the Pap smear (developed by Greek scientist Georgio Papanikolaou) remains the most widely used and effective method for detecting pre-cancerous cells on the cervix, a new vaccine protects women from developing certain kinds of human papillomavirus (HPV), the condition that causes most cervical cancers. Yet controversy swirls around this vaccine in the United States, raising ethical issues such as whether to require mandatory vaccination for girls entering school and sparking fears that vaccinations might reduce the practice of safer sex methods or even lead to promiscuity. Others worry that the vaccine has been rushed to market without enough testing.

The Internet has proven both a blessing and a curse for disseminating information, especially health-based information: although it has made previously esoteric knowledge instantly available, ...

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