The HPV vaccine has been shown to dramatically reduce cervical cancer rates by almost 90% in women in their 20s who were offered it at age 12 to 13.
The study, published in The Lancet, shows the potential for HPV vaccination, in combination with cervical cancer screening, to reduce cervical cancer to the point where almost no-one develops the disease.
The research was carried out at King’s College London, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) run by NHS Digital. Together, they estimated that the HPV vaccination programme prevented around 450 cervical cancers and around 17,200 cases of precancerous conditions over an 11-year period.
‘It’s a historic moment to see the first study showing that the HPV vaccine has and will continue to protect thousands of women from developing cervical cancer,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
‘Cancer Research UK has been funding research in this area for many years and we’ve been eagerly awaiting these results since the introduction of the vaccination programme. Around 850 women die from cervical cancer each year in the UK, so we have the chance to save many lives.’
Previous results had confirmed that HPV vaccination is effective in preventing HPV infection, genital warts, and high-grade precancerous cell changes in the cervix.
But as the vaccine was only introduced in the 2000s, it hasn’t been possible until recently to definitively say the vaccine reduces cases of cervical cancer itself – the ultimate goal of the vaccination programme.
‘It’s been incredible to see the impact of HPV vaccination, and now we can prove it prevented hundreds of women from developing cancer in England,’ said Professor Peter Sasieni, lead author from King’s College London.