Cervical cancer could be eliminated ‘within 30 years’ thanks to vaccine success

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A new study suggests that the success of a vaccine against cervical cancer means it could be eliminated within 30 years.

Researchers in Scotland say the routine HPV vaccination of girls aged 12 to 13 has caused a dramatic reduction in cancer rates, almost wiping out all cases of cervical pre-cancer in young women.

They believe that its success, if duplicated on a global scale, could mean the end of cervical cancer altogether.

Girls around the UK are given the HPV vaccine to protect them against the cancer-causing HPV virus.

Scotland introduced its national HPV immunisation programme for girls aged 12 to 13 in 2008.

Researchers have analysed vaccination and screening records from the last 10 years to compare cancer rates between women who were vaccinated and those who were not, and have found that the start of routine vaccination prompted a reduction of up to 89% in the presence of pre-cancerous cells.

Age was found to be a factor, with figures suggesting that a vaccine given at the age of 12 was almost twice as effective as a vaccination at the age of 17.

Researchers also discovered that women who were not vaccinated seemed to benefit from others being given the vaccine, as the less HPV infection there is in the general population, the less it is spread.

Dr Kevin Pollock, senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University, told Sky News: “It’s very significant.

“We know that, among women, the cervical screening uptake has been decreasing, so this primary prevention method has been shown to actually reduce cervical disease quite considerably – nearly eliminating it in women under 25.

“That’s a great success story because it will mean a reduction in cervical cancer in the next few years.”

The vaccine used has been designed to target two high-risk types of HPV virus – types 16 and 18. They are responsible for around 80% of cervical cancers.

Researchers have discovered that the vaccine has also protected against another three types of the HPV virus, which together with types 16 and 18 cause around 90% of cervical cancer in the UK.

Dr Pollock added: “The vaccine has exceeded expectation.

“I think what we’re looking at is, probably within 20 to 30 years, the possible elimination of cervical cancer – and that’s a great news story.”