Do Vaccines Cause Cancer in Children?
Published Oct, 2020
You’ve probably heard a neighbor or another parent warn you against vaccines claiming it can cause cancer. Even on some internet sites, this information is mimicked like its gospel truth. But how true is this rumor? Do vaccines really cause cancer in children?
There are a lot of studies geared towards finding out the relationship between vaccines and childhood cancer. But as of this writing, there is yet no conclusive scientific proof associating the two.
In other words, there is no evidence that vaccines cause cancer in children – at least for the time being. On the contrary, there is some evidence indicating that vaccines may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
But before we delve deeper into that, let’s refresh our knowledge on vaccines.
How Vaccines Work
In a nutshell, vaccines work by familiarizing your body with certain pathogens, be it viruses or bacteria. This allows the body to recognize and regulate its responses to these pathogens. As a result, your body develops immunity to them.
To do this, certain molecules of the pathogen are introduced to the body. Also known as antigens, these molecules are present in all viruses and bacteria. When the body learns to recognize these antigens and associate them with harmful pathogens, it will produce antibodies to combat them.
Think of it as like introducing your body to the enemy. Since your body already knows which antigens to watch out for, it will know how to defend itself should you come into contact with that virus or bacteria again. Without vaccines, your body won’t be able to do all this. So with little to no defenses, the viruses and bacteria can just freely walk in like an unopposed conquering invader.
Common Side Effects of Vaccines
As mentioned, vaccines are essentially weaker versions of the disease-causing bacteria and viruses. As such, it’s inevitable that your body will show some form of reaction to it.
Throughout the years, there have been several studies that showed some of the undesirable side effects of vaccines. They can range from mild soreness which usually goes away in a few days to severe allergic reactions. But the most common ones are:
- redness, swelling, or pain in the area where the shot was given
- muscle and joint ache
- mild fever
In certain cases, people may faint after or during vaccination. But most of them are due to psychological reasons rather than as a direct result of the vaccine.
Though there are reported cases of severe allergic reactions to a vaccine, they are very rare. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that in about 1 million people, only one or two are at risk of severe allergic reactions.
While these side effects may seem like a cause for concern, they’re actually signs that the vaccine is working. It shows that your body is already starting to build an immunity against it.
Vaccines and Childhood Cancer
As mentioned, there isn’t yet any evidence linking vaccines with childhood cancer. But it’s not due to a lack of trying.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there had been at least five studies that explored the risk of leukemia after a Hepatitis B vaccination. But the only study ever reported having found a link between the two is the one published in California last 2005.
In the study, the authors hypothesized that the association is due to the amount of mercury found in Hepatitis B vaccines. But this has since been debunked by the WHO as there is the very little amount of mercury in the vaccine to pose a health concern. Besides, in previous studies, exposure to mercury has never been associated with leukemia.
Statistics also disprove this claim. In the years between 1991 to 1998, there has been a significant increase in the country’s rate of Hepatitis B vaccination. But no increase in leukemia cases has been recorded during this same period nor after it.
On the flip side of the coin, a review published in 2017 claims that early vaccination protects against childhood leukemia. The review identified and analyzed 14 studies involving nine different types of vaccines such as:
- Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine
- Triple vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV)
- trivalent MMR vaccine
- Haemophilus influenza type B (HiB) vaccine
The researchers concluded that any vaccination in the first year of life reduces the risk of childhood leukemia. All but one of the vaccines mentioned seem to offer some sort of protection against one of the most common childhood cancers. But since the result of the studies themselves tend to be vague, further research has to be conducted.
Until then, we can still safely assume that the benefits of getting your child vaccinated further outweigh the risks.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.