Journal Retracts Study Showing Increased Cancer Risk from HPV Vaccine After Threats

Threats to the author and, reading between the lines, to the journal itself.

The Centre for Cervical Cancer Prevention in Sweden has noted in its annual report a substantial increase in the incidence of invasive cervical cancer, especially during the two years 2014 and 2015. I have sub-grouped the data according to age, using the same statistical database of the National Board of Health and Welfare as used by the authors of the above-mentioned report. The increase in the incidence of cervical cancer was shown to be most prominent among women 20–49 years of age while no apparent increase was observed among women above 50. The FDA has noted in the clinical trials referred to it for marketing approval that women exposed to the human papilloma virus (HPV) prior to vaccination had an increase in premalignant cell changes compared with placebo controls. I discuss the possibility that HPV vaccination could play a role in the increase in the incidence of cervical cancer by causing instead of preventing cervical cancer disease in women previously exposed to HPV. A time relationship exists between the start of vaccination and the increase in the incidence of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccines were approved in 2006 and 2007, respectively and most young girls started to be vaccinated during 2012–2013….

RETRACTION: Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination

The comment “Increased incidence of cervical cancer in Sweden: Possible link with HPV vaccination” (DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.037) was published online in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics on April 30, 2018 (1). The author gave his name and affiliation as Lars Andersson, department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet (KI), Sweden. On May 8, as soon as KI informed us that no such person worked there, we carried out a correction on the same day and the institution’s name was removed as affiliation (2).

On inquiry, the author informed us that he had used a pseudonym besides a false affiliation. He later made his identity known to IJME’s editor on the promise of strict confidentiality. On verification of his identity, the editor confirmed that (a) the author had the necessary qualifications, expertise and research experience on the subject of the article; and (b) the author did face a credible threat of harm, making it necessary not to be named publicly.

Further we reconfirmed the reviewers’ conclusions: that the article used publicly available data with a simple statistical method; made a fair attempt to report a possible association of the increased incidence of carcinoma cervix with HPV vaccination; and suggested more research. We felt that the data and analysis could be scientifically appreciated and critiqued without reference to the author. Therefore, despite the author’s unacceptable deception, the editors decided to retain the article having already made a correction to remove the false affiliation.

Following our decision, we received valuable advice from our editorial board and other well-wishers, emphasising that there should be zero tolerance to the author’s deception, irrespective of the content of the paper. While our assessment of the science of the article may be correct, we have concluded that tolerating the author’s deception and retaining the article was an error of judgment. We express our deep gratitude to them and have accepted their advice.

Thus, this article is hereby retracted. We will provide a detailed account of this issue, with the nuances involved, in an editorial on a later date….

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