New Cancer Vaccine Exploration for Girls Could Cut Deaths by 75%
A routine jab could cut the number of deaths from cervical cancer by three quarters if given to all girls aged 12, say researchers.
It could also reduce the need for smear tests which lead to anxiety for thousands of women each year who have an abnormal result.
And it might even reduce the likelihood of other cancers caused by the same sexually-transmitted virus.
Cervical cancer is a malignancy of the cervix. Worldwide, it is the second most common cancer of women. Epidemiologists working in the early 20th century noted that:
- Cervical cancer was common in female sex workers.
- It was rare in nuns, except for those who had been sexually active before entering the convent.
- It was more common in the second wives of men whose first wives had died from cervical cancer.
- It was rare in Jewish women.
This led to the deduction that cervical cancer could be caused by a sexually transmitted agentAround 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, and 1,000 women die as a result.
Researchers say that even if only 80 per cent of young girls receive the vaccine, cancer cases and deaths will drop by 61 per cent.
The figures come from a study sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Cervarix, one of two vaccines found to be highly effective against the main strains of a virus which triggers most cervical cancers.
The vaccines are expected to be licensed shortly and cancer experts want all females aged between nine and 55 to be given jabs against the disease.
An annual vaccination programme should be set up for adolescents, according to the study being presented today at the International Papilloma Virus conference in Prague.
The great majority of cases of cervical cancer result from infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.
The study used a computer model to predict the outcome of vaccinating all 12-year-old girls in the UK - almost 377,000 - over their lifetime.
The GSK researchers found it would lead to a 76 per cent reduction in cases of cervical cancer and a similar reduction in deaths.
They assumed that those vaccinated would continue to take part in the existing NHS cervical screening programme, which offers regular smear tests to check for early abnormalities which if left untreated could develop into cancer.
Consequently, mass vaccination of young girls would halve the number of abnormal smears carried out each year, say researchers.
It would also cut by 50 per cent the number of diagnostic tests needed to check for pre-cancerous signs.
The researchers also believe the public health benefits of vaccination could be greater than predicted by the study since it did not look at cancers caused by HPV which affect other parts of the body.
Because HPV is sexually transmitted, boys might eventually have to be given jabs to stop the spread of the infection.
But some critics fear giving young people a vaccine might encourage under-age sex particularly a s scientists believe it should be given to girls before they become sexually active to maximize their protection.
The vaccines are highly effective Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, which researches into HPV, said the benefits of vaccination would help women throughout their lives.
"The peak age for cervical cancer to strike is in the late 30s, but it can occur earlier.
"Beyond the cases and the deaths, hundreds of thousands of women each year in the UK suffer anxiety when they have an abnormal smear result.
"The idea of finally being able to prevent cases of cervical cancer with a vaccine is extremely exciting."
. Is this vaccine going to be compulsory under this government and I observe no side effects were ever mentioned either. Reads like a hard sell, said another experts.
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