Vaccination produces huge drop in early cervical cancer signs

October 4, 2017, University of Aberdeen
Vaccine sees huge drop in early cancer signs
Credit: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

The number of young Scottish women showing early signs of potential cervical cancer have almost halved since the introduction of a school vaccination programme.

The research by the University of Aberdeen suggests the against Human Papilloma Virus has seen a significant reduction in abnormal tests 20 years earlier than anticipated.

The study analysed the number of in Scotland involved in the catch-up programme, aged 20 or 21 years old, who were referred to - a procedure used to look at the cervix if cervical screening finds abnormal cells. It found that 1294 women were referred for a colposcopy in 2008-2009 due to an abnormal screening smear, compared to 758 women in 2013-2014 – a reduction of 41 percent.

This vast drop in the number of women requiring additional care indicates a benefit to the vaccine programme around twenty years earlier than previously expected based on the predicted time for most of the screening population to be protected by the vaccine

The study, published in the BJOG (An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology), analysed trends in the numbers of Scottish women referred from the cervical screening programme for a colposcopy examination. The colposcopy is a test used to find pre-cancerous cells on the cervix and although it is an effective intervention for cancer prevention, negative effects can include pain, infection and in some cases after further treatment, women may be at higher risk of pre-term labour in future pregnancies. Results of this study showed that the group who had been offered the vaccine showed a significant reduction in not only colposcopy, but also medical interventions and treatment compared to those who had not been offered the vaccine.

The UK government introduced the school-based vaccination program in 2008 for twelve and thirteen year old girls to protect from HPV virus and specifically against HPV 16 and 18, which cause at least 70 percent of cervical cancers. The government also offered a three year catch-up programme for girls up to 18 years of age. Uptake of the vaccine in Scotland is currently among the highest in the world, with around 90 percent of girls opting to receive it.

Professor Maggie Cruickshank, from the School of Medicine and Medical Science and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen, and who led the study, explained: "We thought it might take twenty years to see the benefits of HPV vaccination as it would take time to reduce levels of HPV infection - the virus that causes abnormal cells to develop. But this data shows that we're already seeing a significant reduction in colposcopy and subsequent treatment for pre-cancer.

"This is great news for women as this means they can avoid the short term negative effects of colposcopy such as pain and bleeding, but also longer term, there are concerns that some women treated for pre-cancer changes can have an increased risk of pre-term labour. So we're showing that the vaccination is not only protecting against cancer but also, the immediate risks of the colposcopy and longer term, hopefully the increased risk of pre-term labour."

Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), added: "Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women below the age of 35. Each day in the UK, nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer – a largely preventable disease thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccination programme.

"We welcome these extremely encouraging results which reveal a reduction in the number of young women being referred for a colposcopy with early signs of potential cervical – this is most likely due to the HPV vaccination programme's success. We encourage all girls aged 12 and 13 to take up the vaccine. "

Explore further: Schoolgirl cancer vaccination encourages mothers to attend cervical screening

Related Stories

Schoolgirl cancer vaccination encourages mothers to attend cervical screening

November 12, 2015
Manchester researchers have shown that the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme for girls has increased uptake for cervical cancer screening by their mothers.

Screening, HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer: FDA

February 8, 2017
(HealthDay)—Women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer through vaccination and screening, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

How have HPV vaccines affected cervical cancer screening?

June 7, 2017
A new review looks at cervical cancer screening in the era of HPV vaccination. The review notes that trials have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of vaccines against HPV infection, but the complete effect of HPV vaccination ...

6 things you need to know about cervical screening

June 13, 2017
It's Cervical Screening Awareness Week, so we're giving a run-down of what you need to know about cervical screening, also known as the smear test.

HPV testing leads to earlier detection and treatment of cervical pre-cancer

June 22, 2017
Women who receive human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, in addition to a pap smear, receive a faster, more complete diagnosis of possible cervical precancer, according to a study of over 450,000 women by Queen Mary University ...

HPV vaccine reduced cervical abnormalities in young women

July 4, 2016
Young women who received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine through a school-based program had fewer cervical cell anomalies when screened for cervical cancer, found a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Fully reprogrammed virus offers new hope as cancer treatment

May 25, 2018
A cancer treatment that can completely destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells could soon be a possibility, thanks to research led by Cardiff University.

Research could help fine-tune cancer treatment

May 25, 2018
Cancer therapies that cut off blood supply to a tumour could be more effective in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs—according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Increasing physical activity linked to better immunity in breast cancer patients, study finds

May 25, 2018
A new study from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education has found that moderate to vigorous physical activity may help regulate the levels of C-reactive protein – an important biomarker ...

Study finds gut microbiome can control antitumor immune function in liver

May 24, 2018
Scientists have found a connection between bacteria in the gut and antitumor immune responses in the liver. Their study, published May 25 in Science, was led by researchers in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the National ...

Low-fat diet tied to better breast cancer survival

May 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer patients who adopted a low-fat diet were more likely to survive for at least a decade after diagnosis, compared to patients who ate fattier fare, new research shows.

A cascade of immune processes offers insights to triple-negative breast cancer

May 24, 2018
Cancer is crafty. To survive and thrive, tumors find a way of thwarting our body's natural systems.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.