Giving HPV vaccine to women with precancerous cells on cervix may prevent cancer, study finds
- The team looked at data on women whose pre-cancerous cells were removed
- Those who received an HPV vaccine were 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again
- Also three-quarters lower risk of developing the HPV behind most cervical cancers
Giving women with precancerous cells on their cervix the HPV vaccine could lower their risk of developing cervical cancer, scientists say.
Experts from Imperial College London looked at studies of thousands of HPV-vaccinated women who had to have pre-cancerous cells removed.
The results, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that those who received an additional HPV vaccine alongside treatment were around 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again.
The researchers noted that their findings need to be confirmed in large-scale studies, but they believe the results are “robust.”
The Imperial College London researchers looked at studies of thousands of HPV-vaccinated women who had to have precancerous cells removed. The results, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that those who received an additional HPV vaccine alongside treatment were around 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again.
WHAT IS HPV? INFECTION LINKED TO 99% OF CERVICAL CANCER CASES
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes that line your body.
Transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and through skin-to-skin contact between the genitals, it is extremely common.
Up to eight in 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives.
There are over 100 types of HPV. About 30 of them can affect the genital area. Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious.
Many people never show symptoms, as they can occur years after infection, and the majority of cases resolve without treatment.
It can lead to genital warts and is also known to cause cervical cancer by creating abnormal tissue growth.
Each year, an average of 38,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the US, 3,100 cases of cervical cancer in the UK, and around 2,000 other cancers in men.
What other cancers does it cause?
Girls and boys aged 12 to 13 are routinely offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in the UK, while children in the US are offered the vaccine from the age of nine.
It helps prevent cancers caused by the virus, such as cancers of the cervix, anus, and some head and neck cancers.
The vaccine was introduced in 2008 and people over the age of 13 before then are not routinely offered the vaccine, as part of the NHS programme.
But the latest study suggests that women with precancerous cells on their cervix – scientifically known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) – could benefit.
CIN, caused by HPV, is not cancer, but can progress to cervical cancer if left untreated.
Pap smears detect abnormal cells. Follow-up testing is needed to confirm the presence of CIN.
Surgery may be needed to remove them.
Once a woman is identified as having high-grade precancerous cells on her cervix, she has a lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer.
Previous research suggests that giving a preventive HPV vaccine alongside surgery to remove abnormal CIN cells may help reduce the risk for women.
To explore this further, experts analyzed the results of 18 studies to assess whether HPV shots reduced the risk of abnormal cells recurring after surgery.
The studies followed the women for three years, on average.
The results showed that the risk of recurrence of “high-grade preinvasive disease” was 57% lower in those who had been vaccinated alongside their surgery, compared to those who had not received the vaccine.
The results were even stronger in women who carried the strains of the virus most linked to cervical cancer.
However, the researchers noted that the effects of the vaccine are unclear because the data were limited and the studies were at moderate to high risk of bias.
And there was a lack of evidence to determine whether the HPV vaccine reduced the risk of vulvar, vaginal or anal lesions and genital warts.
In addition, the average age of participants was not recorded in most studies and risk factors, such as smoking, were not controlled for.
However, the team said they set strict inclusion criteria and assessed study quality and bias, suggesting the results are robust.
But they noted that high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the effectiveness and cost of HPV vaccination.