Cervical cancer could be eliminated within decades, scientists say
Cervical cancer could be eliminated within decades, scientists say, as a Lancet study shows the effectiveness of jabs for teenagers.
The research on 60 million people in wealthy countries, including the UK, shows a sharp reduction in levels of infections which can cause the disease, since vaccines were introduced.
All 12 and 13 year old girls have been offered the jabs at school, since 2008, with a catchup programme for older girls in the early years of the programme.
From September, it will be extended to boys.
The research, funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and led by Canadian researchers, examined progress in 14 countries, including the UK.
It found that in Britain, the jabs have led to an 86 per cent fall in cases of human papillomavirus (HPV) among vaccinated girls in the 15 to 19 age group.
The “herd immunity” which reduces the levels of virus in circulation, also means that infections have dropped by half among unvaccinated women of this age.
Substantial falls have also been seen in pre-cancerous lesions among women, and in genital warts among men and women in the generation which has been vaccinated, the study found.
Researcher Professor Marc Brisson of Laval University, Canada said: “Because of our finding, we believe the WHO call for action to eliminate cervical cancer may be possible in many countries if sufficient vaccination coverage can be achieved.”
He said that this should be achieved “in decades” if uptake remains high, with a “substantial reduction” in cases of cervical cancer in the next 10 years.
Elimination of disease would mean fewer than four cases per 100,000 people, under WHO classifications.
Dr David Mesher, principal scientist, from Public Health England, said the study showed that the vaccine is “incredibly effective”.
Robert Music, chief executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “This is truly exciting news, which clearly shows the impact of the HPV vaccine in protecting the cervical health of future generations. We’re lucky to have the HPV vaccination programme here in the UK, and this study supports the imminent roll-out of the gender-neutral HPV vaccine.”
“We should further look at whether there is benefit in extending the age at which the vaccine is offered,” he said.
“This study furthers the growing evidence to counteract those who don’t believe that this vaccine works, which is now extremely encouraging. We sincerely hope this will boost public faith in the HPV vaccine, so that more lives can be saved and we get closer to a world where cervical cancer is a thing of the past.”
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