HPV vaccine reduces cervical cancer risk by up to 90%
The HPV vaccine is reducing cervical cancer cases by almost 90%, according to the first epidemiological data shown after vaccination started.
Cancer Research UK described the findings as “historical” and said that it proved that the vaccine is saving lives.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and the hope is that the vaccination can eliminate the disease almost entirely.
The researchers said that the success implied that those who were vaccinated could also need fewer screening tests such as cervical cytology (o pap smear).
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women all over the world and kills more than 300 000 each year.
Almost 9 out of 10 deaths occur in low and medium-income countries where there is limited access to health care for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. The hope is that vaccination has an even greater impact in those countries than in developed countries where the incidence of this type of cancer is very low.
More than 100 countries have started using the vaccine as part of the World Health Organization’s plans to achieve the elimination of cervical cancer.
In Spain, girls are offered the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 13, depending on where they live. Soon, the vaccine will also be offered to boys.
The HPV vaccine can only prevent the infection, it cannot eliminate the virus from the body once it has been contracted. The viruses are so extended that immunization should be directed to children before they become sexually active.
The study, published in The Lancet, analyzed what happened after the vaccine was introduced for girls in England in 2008. Those children are now 20 years old adults. The study showed a reduction of pre-malignant lesions and cervical cancer by 87%.
The reductions were less significant when older teenagers were vaccinated as part of a recovery campaign. This is because fewer older teenagers decided to receive the vaccine and they were probably already sexually active.
In general, the study estimated the HPV program has prevented around 450 cancers and 17,200 precancerous lesions. Also, this seems to be only the beginning of good results, because all vaccinated people are still young to develop cancer, thus the numbers could only increase with time.
For now, women are invited to undergo a pap smear every three to five years to detect cervical cancer. However, it is necessary to rethink if it is pertinent to perform it with such frequency after these results, or if it can be spread out even further.
These are not the last words regarding the HPV vaccine. There are still questions about how long protection lasts and if a middle-age booster shot is needed.
There are also more than 100 types of human papillomavirus.
Spain started using a vaccine that protected against two of them (HPV 16 and 18). Nowadays, a vaccine protecting against nine viruses is being administered, including the main HPV viruses responsible for genital warts.
The lesions causing cancer elicit important changes in the infected cells’ DNA transforming them into cancer cells. This can happen in any infected tissue. The viruses can spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, thus they are also related to anal, penile, and some forms of head and neck cancers.
Nevertheless, 99% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus.
Ultimately, it is a historic moment to see the first study showing that the HPV vaccine has protected and will continue to protect thousands of women against developing cervical cancer.
Remember to visit a Gynecologist periodically to undergo your cervical cancer screening tests.
Request more information or contact us if you want more information on topics related to ovarian cancer, how ovarian cancer starts and its early detection.
Doctor Lucas Minig, specialist in the surgical treatment of ovarian cancer, will be able to solve all your doubts.