A recent report published online Sept. 29 in the journal JAMA Oncology suggests that the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which doctors believe causes most cases of cervical cancer, is more effective than previously thought.
Human papillomaviruses consist of more than 100 different viruses. Some types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet; others cause genital warts; and some have been linked with cancer, most notably cervical cancer. The types of HPV most commonly linked with cervical cancer are HPV 16 and HPV 18, but several other high-risk types contribute to cancer as well.
The types of HPV that cause cervical cancer or genital warts are transmitted sexually. HPV infection is extremely common and generally occurs soon after an individual becomes sexually active. Although most infections resolve on their own, some persist and can lead to precancerous or cancerous changes to the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus. HPV infections also cause genital warts, and have been linked with some head and neck and anal cancers.
Although cervical cancer can take decades to develop, it’s important to protect children before they become sexually active and risk getting infected with HPV in the first place.
For the current study, doctors collected data on young women tested for cervical cancer with Pap tests from 2007 to 2014, who were part of the New Mexico HPV Pap Registry. They found that after eight years of vaccination, the reduction in the incidence of cervical neoplasia, including pre-cancers, was reduced by approximately 50% which was even greater than what was expected.
Currently the recommendation is three doses of the vaccine for girls and boys before the 13th birthday, so that they are protected before they become exposed to the HPV.
Reference: Bernard V, Castle P, Jenison S, et al. Population-Based Incidence Rates of Cervical Intraepitelial Neoplasia in the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Era. Sept. 29, 2016, JAMA Oncology. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.3609
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