Can Vaccines Cause Cancer?

We know that several vaccines can prevent cancer, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and hepatitis B vaccine.

A cancer treatment vaccine, Provenge, has also been approved by the FDA to treat metastatic prostate cancer. Others are in development.

What Causes Cancer?

It seems like everything causes cancer, doesn’t it?

Did you see the media reports about coffee?

“Cancer is a complex group of diseases with many possible causes.”

American Cancer Society on What Causes Cancer?

Some of the most common causes of cancer include:

  • genetic mutations
  • smoking and tobacco
  • heavy alcohol use
  • unprotected exposure to UV rays in sunlight
  • infections

Fortunately, we can protect ourselves from many of these common causes of cancer.

Can Vaccines Cause Cancer?

Vaccines don’t cause cancer, but that doesn’t stop anti-vaccine websites from saying that they do.

“Cancer is part of our new normal. One in two men and one in three women will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. But it’s not just adults. If you can’t bring yourself to focus on this topic for you, please do it for your children.”

Louise Kuo Habakus (Fearless Parent) on Do Vaccines Cause Cancer?

Cancer can definitely become part of your “new normal” if you or a friend or family member gets diagnosed.

National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program cancer statistics.
National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program cancer statistics.

Fortunately, cancer rates have been stable, with declining mortality rates. In children, cancer rates have been rising, but only slightly, and nothing like the boom in rates that some folks describe.

Anti-vaccine folks promote the idea that more people are sick, more people have cancer, and in general, everyone is unhealthy, because it fits with their idea that vaccines are dangerous for everyone.

How do they link vaccines and cancer?

They often push the idea that vaccines cause cancer because the original polio vaccines were found to be contaminated with SV40, or simian virus 40. SV40 has not been linked to cancer though.

What about formaldehyde?

Some vaccines contain formaldehyde and formaldehyde is carcinogenic, so how can you say that vaccines don’t cause cancer?

While some vaccines do contain formaldehyde, remember that it is also naturally found in our bodies.

“Carcinogens do not cause cancer at all times, under all circumstances.”

American Cancer Society

It is the long-term exposure to high amounts of formaldehyde, usually inhaled formaldehyde, that is the big concern. Those most at risk would be workers who might be exposed to inhaled formaldehyde. The small amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is safe and does not cause cancer.

Another anti-vaccine talking point? Misusing vaccine package inserts to make you think that vaccines aren’t properly evaluated for mutagenicity and carcinogenicity.

“To ensure the safety of new vaccines, preclinical toxicology studies are conducted prior to the initiation of, and concurrently with, clinical studies. There are five different types of preclinical toxicology study in the evaluation of vaccine safety: single and/or repeat dose, reproductive and developmental, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and safety pharmacology. If any adverse effects are observed in the course of these studies, they should be fully evaluated and a final safety decision made accordingly. ”

M.D. Green on the Preclinical Toxicology of Vaccines

They are.

Vaccines are safe and necessary. They don’t cause cancer.

What to Know About Vaccines and Cancer

Several vaccines can prevent cancer and there is even a vaccine that can treat cancer. Vaccines don’t cause cancer though.

More on Vaccines and Cancer

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