HPV vaccine has led to 'significant drop' in cervical cancer rates among UK women, study reveals

Girls are offered their first HPV jabs in year 8

As well as being a cause of cervical cancers, there is now a wealth of evidence that HPV also causes cancers in men, including anal, penile and throat cancer
As well as being a cause of cervical cancers, there is now a wealth of evidence that HPV also causes cancers in men, including anal, penile and throat cancer

A new study has shown the success of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine programme in significantly reducing the number of young women carrying potentially life-threatening infections.

The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV 16 and HPV 18 strains.

According to data from Public Health England (PHE), these infections decreased by 86 per cent in English women aged 16 to 21 who were eligible for the vaccination as teenagers between 2010 and 2016.

Specifically, the data reveals reductions across five high-risk HPV types in total, which cause around 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases and adds to a body of evidence which suggests the vaccine offers protection against other HPV types that can cause cervical cancer.

PHE also suggested this decline could continue over a long-term timeframe. Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE, said: "These results are very promising and mean that in years to come we can expect to see significant decreases in cervical cancer, which is currently one of the biggest causes of cancer in women under 35.

"This study also reminds us how important it is to keep vaccination rates high to reduce the spread of this preventable infection.

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"I encourage all parents of girls aged 12 to 13 to make sure they take up the offer of this potentially life-saving vaccine."

Cancer charities have welcomed the news. Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "It is extremely positive to see the impact that the vaccination has had on prevalence of cervical cancer-causing HPV infection among vaccinated women.

"One day we hope to see cervical cancer become a disease of the past and it is only through high vaccination rates that we will get there.

"For women who have had the vaccine, it is important to remember it does not offer full protection against cervical cancer so attending cervical screening when invited is still important."

The HPV vaccination programme was first introduced in 2008. An estimated 80 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 have now been vaccinated in the UK.

It is available free on the NHS to all girls from the age of 12 until they turn 18.

Girls in England are routinely offered their first HPV vaccination when they are in year 8 of school, with the second dose being offered six to 12 months later.

Press Association

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