I ate my wafer...


Dolt of the Day

I would like to introduce a new feature here on "I ate my wafer": the "dolt of the day award" It will work like this, everytime I run across a particularly technically incorrect statement by a public figure I dub them the "I ate my Wafer" dolt of the day, or possibly "mouth-breather of the month".

The first one will be former congressman Dr. Tom Coburn. Why? well because he's aggressively campaigning for warning labels on condoms about their lack of effectiveness in preventing HPV transmission. Rather hillariously, he has said, or rather been quoted as saying that HPV causes "all of the cervical cancer in the country." Problems with his statements:

A. HPV does not cause all of the cervical cancer in America, it is found in some 80-90% of cases. It IS a risk factor, but so are obesity and oral contaceptives. (Interestingly, smoking probably ISN'T linked to cervical cancer.)

B. There are approximately 100 strains of HPV, of which about 30 CAN be transmitted sexually. They can also be transmitted in non sexual methods, such as toilet seats, and skin contact. The big problem is that only 1% of people with HPV actually have any symptoms whatsoever, so statistics are very hard to pin down.

C. The WHO statistics show 10 million women worldwide with stage 2-3 CIN (Cervical cancer/precancer) and 300 Million with HPV without abnormal cervical cells. So, if you get HPV, you're odds of cervical cancer are approximately 3 percent.

D. Condoms do offer some protection against HPV transmission, but data is VERY incomplete.

So, in the interests of science, I visited the local Meijer's store and checked out the warning labels on all of the condoms avalible. (I also spend an equal amount of time examining the construction of various oil filters, so the security people have to be VERY amused to watch me in the CCTV) Due mainly to the threat of product liability legistlation, they already have pretty decent warnings, they certainly don't claim to protect against HPV. Rather obviously, the FDA doesn't want to see ANY reduction in condom usage hence their reluctance to add additional warnings. So what the hell is Dr. Coburn up to? It doesn't take much of a reach to see that he's playing politics not science here.

To draw a simple analogy, requiring additional specific warnings on condoms makes about as much sense from a medical perspective as putting warnings on seatbelts about broken ribs.