For This Cancer, a 'Historic Moment'

Cases of cervical cancer slashed by up to 87% thanks to HPV vaccine, new research shows
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2021 11:32 AM CDT
For This Cancer, a 'Historic Moment'
This undated image provided in October 2018 shows a vial and packaging for the Gardasil 9 vaccine.   (Merck via AP)

Hundreds of thousands of women around the world are killed annually by cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer. Now, a new study offers hope that those fatality numbers could one day be drastically slashed, thanks to what researchers are calling "historic" findings regarding the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine, reports the BBC. In research published Wednesday in the Lancet journal, scientists found that the HPV vaccine decreased rates of cervical cancer—for which human papillomaviruses cause the vast majority of cases—by nearly 90% in young women who'd received the vaccine years earlier.

Over an 11-year period, the study tracked young women in the UK who'd received the Cervarix-branded vaccine (in the US, Gardisil 9 is the only HPV vaccine used) between the ages of 12 and 18, starting in 2008, per CBS News. Study results showed that the earlier the vaccine was administered, the better: Women who'd gotten inoculated at ages 12 or 13 saw an 87% reduction in cervical cancer rates, with a 62% drop for the 14-to-16 set, and a 34% decrease for girls 16 to 18.

The study also found a reduction in precancerous growths among those who'd been vaccinated. "It's a historic moment," Michelle Mitchell, CEO of Cancer Research UK, says in a statement. "We have the chance to save many lives." Researchers hope their findings on the vaccine—which is also offered to boys in the UK and US to help fend off genital warts, penile and anal cancer, and the spread of the virus to sex partners—will soon lead to it being used more in low- to middle-income nations, where most HPV-related deaths take place, and where access to screening for cervical cancer is hard to find. (More HPV stories.)

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