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Cervarix HPV vaccine can cut cervical cancer rates by almost 90%, new study says

The study’s authors said they hope the result encourage more people to get the jab

Image: Shutterstock/Konstantin Kolosov

CERVICAL CANCER RATES are 87% lower in women who have had the Cervarix HPV vaccine between the ages of 12-13 than in previous generations, according to a new study by The Lancet. 

The study, which started in 2008 in England, also found a 62% reduction in the disease in women who got the vaccine between the ages of 14-16, and a 34% lower risk in those who got it between the ages of 16-18. 

In a statement announcing the results, The Lancet said that “this is the first direct evidence of prevention of cervical cancer using the bivalent vaccine, Cervarix.”

Gardasil 9 is the vaccine currently in use in Ireland; it protects against nine out of 10 cervical cancers. An earlier version of Gardasil was initally rolled out for school-age girls in 2010.

Gardasil protects against two more strains of the virus than Cervarix, which protects against only two strains. 

Immunisation in schools in Ireland was extended in 2019 to boys, who can develop other cancers from the virus. 

Cervarix was used in the UK from 2008-2012. Since September 2012, Gardasil has been used instead.

The research estimates that by June 2019, there were some 450 fewer cases of cervical cancer than expected in the vaccinated population in England, and 17,200 fewer cases of cervical carcinomas (pre-cancers).  

Researchers looked at population-based cancer registry data between January 2006 and June 2019 for seven groups of women between the ages of 20-64 at the end of 2019. 

“This represents an important step forwards in cervical cancer prevention,” Dr. Kate Soldan from the UK Health Security Agency, and co-author of the study, said. 

She added: “We hope that these new results encourage uptake as the success of the vaccination programme relies not only on the efficacy of the vaccine but also the proportion of the population vaccinated.”

Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Associate Director for Data Curation at NHS Digital and a co-author of the paper said that, aside from encouraging people to get the shot, the study “also (demonstrates) the power of data in helping medical researchers … to understand what causes cancer and how best to diagnose, prevent and treat it.” 

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Limitations

One of the study’s limitations, according to its authors, is that rates of cervical cancer diagnosis in young women are relatively rare. 

Because the vaccinated populations are young, it is still too early to assess the full impact of HPV immunisation on cervical cancer rates, the authors said.

Still, the two most common HPV infections which the vaccine protects against are present in as many as 92% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer before the age of 30.

According to the HSE, about 300 people get cervical cancer in Ireland every year, and about 90 people die from it. 

The disease is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39. Cervical cancer is very rare in people under the age of 25.

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