Vaccination against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancer is having a major impact on stopping infections and should significantly reduce cases of the disease within a decade, researchers said on Wednesday.
Presenting results of an international analysis covering 60 million people in high-income countries, scientists from Britain and Canada said they found “strong evidence” that vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) works “to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings.”
“We’re seeing everything that we’d want to see. We’re seeing reductions in the key HPV infections that cause most cervical disease, and we’re seeing reductions in cervical disease,” said David Mesher, principal scientist at Public Health England, who worked on the research team.
Marc Brisson, a specialist in infectious disease health economics at Laval University who co-led the study, said the results suggested “we should be seeing substantial reductions in cervical cancer in the next 10 years.”
HPV vaccines were first licensed in 2007 and have since been adopted in at least 100 countries worldwide. Britain’s GSK makes an HPV vaccine called Cervarix, which targets two strains of the virus, while Merck makes a rival shot, Gardasil, which targets nine strains.
In countries with HPV immunization programs, the vaccines are usually offered to girls before they become sexually active to protect against cervical and other HPV-related cancers.
Infections reduced by 66 to 83 per cent
Brisson’s team gathered data on 60 million people over eight years from 65 separate studies conducted in 14 countries and pooled it to assess the vaccines’ impact.
They found that the two HPV types that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers — known as HPV 16 and HPV 18 — were significantly reduced after vaccination, with an 83 per cent decline in infections in girls aged 13 to 19 and 66 per cent drop in women aged 20 to 24 after five to eight years of vaccination.