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Poor lifestyle practices influence HPV-related cervical cancer - doctor

Published:Wednesday | May 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMJason Cross

Florida-based gynaecologic oncologist and robotic surgeon, Dr Troy Gatcliffe wants Jamaicans to know that the human papillomavirus (HPV) does not cause cervical cancer all by itself, but is aided by poor lifestyle practices such as smoking, which supports and nurtures the virus into deadly cancerous cells.

Gatcliffe was addressing a group of medical practitioners at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel during a medical symposium which focused on cervical cancer.

The symposium was organised by the Jamaica Cancer Society and the Miami Cancer Institute, Baptist Health South Florida.

"One thing to understand is that exposure to the HPV virus alone, just by itself, is not sufficient to go on and cause cancer. There has to be other issues or other cofactors that cause the virus to go on and do its bad work."




He cited smoking as a definite factor, but said that substances like certain types of contraceptives, even though not necessarily a bad thing, can lead to cervical cancer.

"One of the most important ones is smoking. The other important one is hormonal contraceptives. That is not to say women who take birth control pills are more promiscuous. That's not the message. We don't understand what the mechanism is with hormonal contraceptives, but there is an issue with taking birth control pills and the way it intercalates. I would like to [also mention] stress. Anything that reduces your immune system will change the way your body deals with the virus," he said.

... Vaccine not recommended for women over age 25

Dr Troy Gatcliffe says that HPV persists in some women for various reasons, mainly reinfection.

"You can become a chronic carrier of HPV. Men carry it in their penises and women will harbour it in their cervices and sometimes not clear it. [One thing that] is happening is that women are seeing the virus, clearing it and then being reinfected either by a new partner or by her partner who is a chronic carrier or he himself is being reinfected. Reinfection leads to viral persistence. Viral persistence will then cause the virus DNA to become integrated and intercalated into the cells in the cervix, and that's how it progresses on to cancer," informed Gatcliffe.

He continued: "So that is the reason the vaccine is not recommended for women over the age of 26. Human beings have seen and developed their own immunity to the virus."