Cancer- The New Childhood Disease?

There is a deadly disease that will affect approximately 10,000 children under the age of 15 this year. It will kill approximately 1,350 children under the age of 15 this year. Rates of this disease in children have been on the rise in the past few decades. This death rate is down from 2500 in 1998. Doctors say the cause is unknown. According to the CDC, this is the second leading cause of death in children ages 5-14 after accidents and unintentional injuries.

Getting concerned? What is this disease?

It’s cancer.

How do childhood cancer deaths compare to other causes of death for children?

In 2011, 1,545 children died from abuse and neglect, just a little higher than the American Cancer Society’s projections for this year. (See page 54 of this document for exact reference.)

In 2010, there were 134 accidental gun deaths of children (0-19).

Remember the post on measles? Before the MMR vaccine, 500 individuals died every year from measles complications.

In 2010, there were 1,790 firearm homicides of children ages 0-19. (A total of 2,808 total homicides, just a little over the 1998 cancer death rate for children.)

In 2010, there were 749 firearm suicides of children ages 0-19. (A total of 1,933 suicides.)

How about children being left in hot cars? That’s a popular topic right now. In 2013 there were 44 children who died from being left in a hot car. Since 1998, there have been a total of 629 vehicular heat stroke deaths among children.

Also take note that the National Cancer Institute has different projections than the American Cancer Society’s more conservative numbers, which include children ages 1-19. The National Cancer Institute projects that in 2014 15,780 children will develop cancer and 1,960 will die. Also take note that survival rates listed for cancer are only for five years after treatment.

So cancer is a significant cause of mortality in children. But guess what kinds of cancers are most common in children?

Leukemia (cancer that starts in blood forming tissue such as bone marrow and spreads through the blood stream), brain and central nervous system tumors, lymphoma (cancer of the immune system), rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of the soft tissue in the muscle), neuroblastoma (cancer in the nerve cells, which mostly affects infants and children), Wilms tumor (cancer that starts with malignant tumors in the kidneys and then spreads to the lungs, liver or lymph nodes and usually affects children under 5 years old), bone cancer and gonadal and germ cell cancers are the most common types of cancer seen in children ages 0-19.

What could be causing these cancers? While we don’t have any definitive answers at the moment, consider the following:

So it may be wise to ask yourself if you think that we can really inject our children and ourselves with animal viruses and carcinogens and expect only good health to result.

 

 

 

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Hepatitis B: The Threat That Isn’t

The hepatitis B shot is one of those vaccines that has a curious habit of showing up as a required vaccine for the most unlikely groups- like newborn babies and kindergarteners. Until a couple of years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints’ Missionary Department required that all of its missionaries receive the hep B vaccine. (Exactly what type of activities did they think missionaries would be participating in?) However, hepatitis B is primarily contracted through sexual transmission, contaminated needles, and contact with infected blood. It can also be passed from mother to baby during birth or the first few years of life. So how did a disease that was once feared mostly by drug addicts and participants in promiscuous sex end up on the vaccine schedule for young children?

Kids and Hepatitis B: The Real Story

 The CDC’s information page for parents on Hepatitis B claims that “of the more than 1 million people in the United States living with lifelong Hepatitis B, most got the virus as a child” and that “When infants and young children are infected with Hepatitis B, they have 90% chance of developing a life-long, chronic infection”. The CDC says that Hepatitis B can be passed through more every day means such as chewing food to give to a baby, sharing toothbrushes and gum and touching open cuts or sores. Statements like these may give the impression that Hepatitis B is a disease that frequently affects children and that transmission outside of sexual contact, needle sharing and maternal transmission are also frequent phenomena.

 However, reports of epidemiology presented at the National Institutes of Health Workshop on the Management of Hepatitis B show a different breakdown. Their statistics show that 45% of all new HBV infections in the United States are sexually transmitted, with injection drug use causing another 21% of cases and the remainder (33%) being cases of mother-to-child transmission occurring at birth or in the first few years of life. (pg. 20)

Transmission

Overall, the CDC statistics show that rate of HBV infection is very low in the United States and Canada, averaging 0.1 to 0.5% for current or chronic infection, however the rate of infection is much higher among native populations and Asian emigres. About 5% of Americans have been infected with the hepatitis B, but 90-95% of the time these cases are cleared by the immune system on its own. (See page 19 under the heading “Canada and the United States”.)

 Obviously, if a mother has hepatitis B, transmission to her baby is a grave concern. But a mother who is hepatitis B free poses no danger of transmission to her baby. Concerns have been raised over child-to-child transmission, and this is possible, though extremely rare.

 Child-to-child transmission of hepatitis B (mostly through contact with open sores) has been well documented in developing countries. In the United States and other developed countries child-to-child transmission incidents have been extraordinarily rare, even in daycare and school. Urine and feces are not vehicles for transmission unless blood is present and oral transmission of hepatitis B is almost non-existent. (pg. 48 under heading “Risk of Hepatitis B Infection in Daycare Centers”.)

 Studies show that immunity acquired through the Hepatitis B vaccine as an infant will not last into the teen years.

Risks vs. Benefits

Conscious objectors of the Hepatitis B vaccine have pointed out that the number of adverse events associated with this particular shot are far in excess of the number of children who actually have the disease. In Minnesota alone, there have been 240 reports of adverse events following hep B vaccination, including six deaths. A summary of these cases is available here. In 1999 Dr. Phillip Incao M.D. gave testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives protesting the requirement of hepatitis B vaccination for children starting school. He noted that between July 1990 and 1999, 17, 497 cases of hospitalizations, injuries and deaths had been reported in the United States after hepatitis B vaccination. Of these severe reactions, 146 of the deaths occurred in individuals who had received only a hepatitis B vaccine without any other vaccines. Of those 147 deaths, 73 were children under 14 years of age. How do these numbers measure up to the number of children who actually contract hepatitis B? In 1996, 279 cases of hepatitis B were reported in children under the age of 14 while 872 hep B vaccine related serious adverse events were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. And this is likely only the tip of the iceberg. Fewer than 10% of doctors report adverse vaccine reactions. Read the full text of Dr. Incao’s testimony here. Statistically speaking, a child is more likely to suffer a serious reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine than to actually contract the disease.

Vaccines

Energix-B and Recombivax HB are the two most commonly used Hepatitis B vaccines for children. Energix-B does contain aluminum hydroxide. According to the Materials Safety Data sheet for aluminum hydroxide, information about carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic developmental toxicity effects are not available, but it may affect the blood, bones, metabolism and liver. It also may affect behavior by causing spasms and muscle contractions. (23) Recombivax offers a preservative free pediatric and adult formulation, though these still contain a chemical called aluminum hydroxyphosphate.

 

 

Cognitive Dissonance, the Sunk Cost Fallacy and Vaccine Culture

“We already know that Luftwaffe pilots are superior to Allied pilots, now we just need the research to prove it!”– Colonel Klink, Hogan’s Heroes, Season 2, Episode 1

“I’m so glad we got the flu shot. We just got sick with the flu and it was terrible, but it would have been so much worse if we hadn’t gotten the flu shot!”

I’ve heard statements like this several times. On the surface it sounds comforting and nice, but when you take away all of the emotion associated with vaccination, these sorts of beliefs come down to cognitive dissonance and the sunk cost fallacy.

As I’ve previously discussed, vaccination is a big part of our culture. When we participate in this ritual, we receive a number of social and emotional payoffs. We feel that we are doing our part in fighting off disease and epidemic, the people we respect in the medical and public health communities give us their approval and it is a way of affirming the stories we have grown up with about how technology can save us from nature.

The problem comes when vaccines don’t work or cause a serious side effect. Part of the story we have been raised with about vaccination is that it is highly safe and effective. When it isn’t safe or effective, we experience what is called cognitive dissonance. This is when the reality of a situation and what we believe don’t match up. (Blogger Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology has written a great blog post on the subject here. Please note, Tyler is pro-vaccination and has mentioned the need to get flu shots to prevent illness during the cold and flu season.)

When we get the flu vaccine and subsequently get sick, our brain enters a tailspin that goes something like this: “I just got a flu shot, how can I get sick when I just got a flu shot? Did the vaccine not work? But it has to work, because vaccines are safe and effective; everybody says so and it’s a scientific fact. Everybody I respect tells me that vaccines are safe and effective. If vaccines aren’t safe and effective, my worldview crumbles and I will lose standing in my community. There has to be another explanation. OK, here it is. I would have gotten deathly ill if I hadn’t had the shot. So even though I got sick, the shot saved me from getting severely ill. Whoo! Glad I dodged that bullet!”

It’s often not just a matter of a single disease like pertussis or the flu. Often, we have vaccinated ourselves and our children several times over, so if we were to adopt the belief that vaccines don’t work, it would mean that all those doctors visits and injections were actually a waste- or potentially even harmful. This is where it gets really difficult for parents. None of us want to believe that we have exposed our children to a potentially dangerous situation. From a social and emotional standpoint, we have a lot on the line when it comes to vaccination because our acceptance in society and our worth as parents seem to be in danger if we forsake vaccination. Faced with this, many of us succumb to the sunk cost fallacy. We’re in so far that we feel like we have to keep going even if what we’re doing isn’t working.

Telling ourselves that vaccination is working when it isn’t may make us feel comfortable, but it won’t protect our health. If we want to actually be healthy, we need to face reality. Sure it means saying “no” to the herd, but it’s a question of priorities. Is it more important to fit in or to protect our bodies? Everyone knows what my answer is, but you will have to answer for yourself.