The rate of cervical cancer cases among women in the UK has dropped dramatically after the introduction of the first generation of HPV vaccines, a new study estimates. The vaccine protects against several strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer in some cases.
For the study, published this week in The Lancet and funded by the Cancer Research UK charity, the researchers looked at three groups of women who were vaccinated in 2008 in England when the country’s national HPV vaccination program began. These groups included people who were vaccinated at ages 12 to 13, ages 14 to 16, and ages 16 to 18, respectively. The researchers compared data from groups vaccinated with data from older people who were not eligible to receive the vaccine.
Using data modeling using information from a national cancer registry, the authors estimated that the vaccine prevented about 448 cases of cervical cancer between January 1, 2006 and June 30, 2021. They found Also estimated that the vaccine prevented about 17,325 cases of precancerous cells in the cervix. , which can develop into cancer if left untreated. This equates to an 87% reduction in cervical cancer cases among the youngest group during this period. Groups who received the vaccine when they were older saw small but still significant reductions in their rates of cervical cancer.
Note that in this study, the researchers specifically looked at people who had received the Cervarix vaccine, which has since been voluntarily taken off the market. Americans may be more familiar with the similar HPV vaccine Gardasil, which was first introduced in the United States in 2006 and in the United Kingdom in 2012.
Today in the United States, the National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be over 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer this year, a rate that has declined significantly since the 1990s. Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that children receive the HPV vaccine around the age of 11 or 12. But you can start it as early as 9 years old and it is recommended for everyone up to 26 years old. can still get one, but the CDC recommends that they discuss the decision with a health care provider first. (By age 26, according to the CDC, most people have already been exposed to the virus, so there is less benefit to getting the vaccine at this point.)
The original versions of the HPV vaccine, including Cervarix and Gardasil, only protected a few strains of the virus. Newer versions of Gardasil protect against more stress. And it’s not just cervical cancer: HPV infections can also cause throat and anal cancers, which have been on the rise over the past decade. So getting your children vaccinated against HPV helps protect them both from the virus and from several HPV-related cancers.