Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Could Eliminate Cervical Cancer Screening Need: Study

Boomer Health and Lifestyle

Posted by Claire Shefchik on November 12, 2011 1:30 PM

Vaccinating girls for human papillomavirus (HPV) early in life could reduce the need for later screenings, U.S. and Finnish researchers said Wednesday.

“Provided that organized vaccination programs achieve high coverage in early adolescents before sexual debut, HPV vaccination has the potential to substantially reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, probably allowing the modification of screening programs,” Matti Lehtinen from the University of Tampere in Finland told Reuters.

The first study looked at 20,000 healthy women between 15 and 25 years old from 14 countries worldwide. Researchers found GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix vaccine protected effectively against high-grade cervical precancers, early adenocarcinoma, and 12 other types of cancer-causing HPV. The second study showed cross-protection against HPV types 31, 33, 45, and 51. The vaccine partially protects against viruses it is not designed to target, which collectively cause about 85 percent of cases of cervical cancer.

Lehtinen suggested the vaccine could eliminate the need for cervical smear screens every few years in women over the age of 25. In Finland, which implemented an HPV vaccination campaign in 2007, he suggested cutting cervical cancer screening down to just a one test at around age 25.

“You should not have two measures on top of each other if one is already efficient enough,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “This could certainly mean lots of savings in terms of costs of screening.”

The study appeared Nov. 9 in The Lancet Oncology.

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