The end of cervical cancer?
The HPV vaccine has been much more effective than predicted, scientists have found—so much so that it could eliminate cervical cancer altogether. Human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease, is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Researchers examined 40 studies of HPV infections and associated symptoms, covering 60 million people in 14 high-income countries that adopted the vaccine—typically administered to girls around age 12—after its introduction in 2006. They found that the strains of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer decreased by 83 percent over that period among girls ages 13 to 19, and by 66 percent among those ages 20 to 24. Cases of precancerous cervical lesions fell by 51 percent among girls ages 15 to 19, and by 31 percent among women ages 20 to 24. Genital warts, another potential consequence of HPV, also fell sharply. The vaccine hasn’t been available long enough for there to be meaningful data on its effect on cancer rates, but the researchers expect similarly sharp declines. Lead author Mélanie Drolet, from Laval University in Canada, tells NBCNews.com that the findings are “a first sign that vaccination could eventually lead to the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem.”