An article published in the British Journal of Cancer today provides further evidence to suggest that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is leading to a reduction in cervical abnormalities among the target population: http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/bjc2014479a.html
Since its introduction in 2008, researchers from Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and the University of Strathclyde have monitored the impact of the HPV vaccine among women attending for cervical screening at age 20. By linking individual vaccination, screening and HPV testing records, they have been able to determine the early impact of the immunisation programme on pre-cancerous cells.
Dr Kevin Pollock, Senior Epidemiologist at HPS explained, “These findings are very exciting and demonstrate that high uptake of the HPV vaccine is associated with a significant reduction of low and high grade cervical abnormalities in young women in Scotland.”
Dr Kim Kavanagh, Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde added, “To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show a reduction of pre-cancerous cells associated with the HPV vaccine at the population level. These data are very encouraging for countries that have achieved high HPV vaccine uptake.”
While these data are extremely encouraging, regular attendance at cervical screening remains important since the vaccine does not afford protection against all types of HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.
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Notes to the Editor
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body, for example, in your cervix, anus, mouth and throat. Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, particularly types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45. They are called high-risk types. Approximately 99% of cases of cervical cancer occur as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV.
When was the HPV vaccine introduced?
In 2008, a national human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme began in Scotland for 12–13 year old females with a three-year catch-up campaign for those under the age of 18. Since 2008, three-dose uptake of vaccine in girls aged 12–13 has exceeded 90% annually, while in the catch-up cohort (girls aged 13-17) overall uptake was 66%.
How is HPV infection spread?
The HPV virus is very common and is easily spread by sexual activity.