HPV vaccine 'dramatically' lowers cervical cancer risk - Latest Pharmacy News

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The HPV vaccine has led to "profound reduction" in the rate of precancerous cervical changes in Scotland.

In 2008, the United Kingdom introduced a nationwide vaccination program where all girls aged 12 to 13 were immunized against two of the most troublesome strains of the human papillomavirus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, which are known to cause cancer in both women and men.

Scotland has an established national cervical screening programme and in 2008 introduced a national HPV immunisation programme for girls aged 12 and 13, with a catch-up programme up to age 18.

Researchers looked at the impact of routine vaccination on levels of abnormal cells and cervical lesions, known as CIN.

The study, which appears in "AIDS Patient Care and STDs", found that there was already reports of higher rates of HPV-related cancers in gay minority men who were older and still sexually active.

Compared with unvaccinated women born in 1988, vaccinated women born in 1995 and 1996 showed reductions of between 79 and 89 per cent for all grades of CIN.

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The study reported no difference in the effect of screening between women with and without high-risk HPV in their tumors.

But there are other factors that make Scotland an ideal country to test the value of widespread HPV vaccination, according to lead author Tim Palmer, a pathologist at the University of Edinburgh.

The study enrolled 192 women, diagnosed with precancerous skin growths, randomising 129 to receive the vaccine and 63, placebo. Most importantly, the rate of growths classified as a cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade 3 also dropped substantially, by almost 90 per cent. For example, the vaccine was 86% effective for CIN grade three or worse in women vaccinated aged 12-13 years compared to 51% for women vaccinated aged 17 years.

The researchers randomly selected 30 age-matched controls from the Swedish female population for each case and then calculated the risk of so-called adenosquamous cell carcinoma and other rare types of cervical cancer, in relation to being screened. This may protect older women from developing cervical cancer.

In a linked editorial, Julia Brotherton, Medical Director at VCS Foundation in Australia, says the findings are "dramatic and document a considerable reduction in high grade cervical disease over time".

Rare types of cervical cancer can be effectively prevented with screening, a comprehensive study of identified cases of rare cervical cancer over a ten-year period in Sweden concludes. "Before that stage, the frequency and number of screening tests will need to be reviewed; there are suggestions that just two or three tests in a screening "lifetime" will be adequate".

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