In the latest battle of Fox News' ongoing War on Health, Fox & Friends this morning attacked a California law that will allow adolescents as young as 12 to receive the HPV vaccine without parental consent and juxtaposed that law with a California provision that restricts those under 18 from using tanning salons. While 12 may be a young age at which to be making health decisions, experts do recommend a girl receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, before she becomes sexually active. And Fox's comparison is outrageous given that the vaccine can protect against cervical cancer, while tanning can cause cancer. It's especially egregious given Fox's long history of attacking healthy behavior.
The co-hosts took on California's laws regarding the HPV vaccine and tanning salons on this morning's edition of Fox & Friends.
From the broadcast:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Out in the great state of California, guess how old a person has to be to give consent for preventive care for sexually transmitted diseases?
DOOCY: It is 12.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): So you can do it on your own without permission, without signed permission from your parents?
DOOCY: Because they say it's a life saver, can prevent cervical cancer in the case of HPV.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Well -- and it should be up to the parents, actually, at least I believe, to make that decision. A 12-year-old is still a kid. So can you imagine if you live out there and your child goes to the pediatrician and happens to be in the room without you, the child can now say, yes or no, to getting this vaccine. Many parents would want their kids to get the vaccine, but they probably would want to know about it. The weird thing is that you can't tan -- you can't go to a tanning bed now in California. You have to be 18 years old to do that. But you can get a vaccine to prevent STDs. It seems a little flip-flopped.
DOOCY: So it seems like they flip the STD and the SPF thing.
KILMEADE: Right. Maybe it's just a mistake.
DOOCY: It should probably be the other way around, but it's not.
KILMEADE: Alright. What do you think about that?
CARLSON: I said what I -- I think parents should always have the last say.
On-screen text aired during the segment read:
It's reasonable to debate how old a child should be before he or she is able to receive a vaccine without parental consent. However, Fox failed to mention that experts say this particular vaccine is most effective when patients receive it at age 11 or 12 -- and, as Doocy briefly acknowledged, it can prevent cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that vaccination is "recommended ... for 11 and 12 year-old girls" because "[i]deally females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active." And HPV is the world's "second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women," according to a local ABC affiliate in San Francisco.
But tanning beds are indisputably associated with higher risks of skin cancer. A May 2010 study from the University of Minnesota found that melanoma risk was "74 percent higher for people who tanned indoors compared with those who didn't," according to NPR. Studies in 2009 found that tanning beds also increase the risk of skin cancer by 75 percent, for those who begin using them before age 30. An AP article about the 2009 study was headlined, "Study: Tanning beds can be as deadly as arsenic."
Concerns about parental consent notwithstanding, this is an interesting comparison Fox chose to make: they're outraged California is increasing access to something that can prevent cancer, but decreasing access to something that causes cancer. This isn't the first time Fox has gone to bat for unhealthy practices -- last week, Fox & Friends helped a guest actress promote Botox. What are Fox's priorities when it comes to their viewers' health?