Young people * Women's health

Cervical cancer jab will cut cases by two thirds

Experts predict dramatic drop in new cases

The cervical cancer vaccine will cut the number of new cases in women under 30 by two thirds within the next 15 years, experts say.

A study, published in the British Journal of Cancer today, predicts the number of women in their twenties diagnosed with cervical cancer will drop by 63% by 2025.

Girls aged 12 and 13 have been offered the Cervarix HPV vaccine in the UK since 2008. It protects against two types of the human papilloma virus – HPV 16 and HPV 18 – which cause around 70% of cervical cancers.

In the study, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London calculated the number of cancer cases which would be prevented if 80% of girls were vaccinated. So far, the latest government figures suggest that 78% of girls have received all three doses of the vaccine.

The researchers also predicted 51% fewer women will have abnormal cell changes - known as C1N3 - which could lead to cervical cancer.

Professor Jack Cuzick, who led the study, said: “In women in their twenties alone, around 145 cases of cervical cancer will be prevented each year in the UK thanks to the HPV vaccine. And around 13,000 women each year will be spared from having an abnormal screening test result.

“Our predictions are really encouraging. If girls continue to take up the vaccine, thousands in the future could be prevented from developing cervical cancer and many more would avoid treatment to remove abnormal precancerous cells.

“This is the most realistic estimate of the impact the vaccination programme will have on the number of women who develop cervical cancer. It shows that the vaccine has great potential in preventing the disease in the near future, but also that it’ll take several decades before we see its full benefits.”

Approximately 2,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK, and around 225 of these are in women in their twenties. Although two thirds of women survive for five years or more, over 900 women die every year from it.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This is really good news for girls who have had the vaccine and for those who will have it in the future. But it’s important to remember that the vaccine will not completely wipe out cervical cancer because it doesn’t protect against every type of high risk HPV.

“Now and for the foreseeable future, it’s vital that women go for cervical screening when they’re invited. Screening can prevent cervical cancer by detecting unusual changes in the cervix before cancer develops and it saves thousands of lives in the UK each year.

“Our message is to take up the opportunity to get vaccinated but it’s equally important to go for screening when you’re invited.”

This article was published on Wed 20 January 2010

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson -

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