Immunisation programme leads to cervical cancer symptoms reduction

By Émer O’Toole, News Editor

A vaccination programme has led to a significant reduction in pre- cancerous cells, according to new research involving the University of Strathclyde.

Research in the British Journal of Cancer found that the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme, introduced in 2008, is leading to a decrease in cervical abnormalities among young women.

Researchers from Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and the University of Strathclyde have been monitoring the impact of the HPV vaccine among women attending for cervical screening at the age of 20.

By linking individual vaccination, screening and HPV testing records, they were able to determine the early impact of the vaccination scheme on pre-cancerous cells.

Dr Kim Kavanagh, Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said: “To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to show a reduction of pre-cancerous cells associated with the HPV vaccine at the population level.

“These data are very encouraging for countries that have achieved high HPV vaccine uptake.”

Dr Kevin Pollock, Senior Epidemiologist at HPS, added: “These findings are very exciting and demonstrate that high uptake of the HPV vaccine is associated with a significant reduction of low and high grade cervical abnormalities in young women in Scotland.”

However, the experts pointed out that while the research is encouraging, it is still important for women to attend cervical screening since the vaccine does not afford protection against all types of HPV- the virus which leads to most cervical cancer cases.

The HPV vaccination programme began in Scotland for 12-13 year olds, with a three-year catch up campaign for those under 18. Since 2008, three-dose uptake of vaccine in girls aged 12-13 has increased by 90 per cent per year, while in the catch up period- girls aged 13- 17- overall increase was 66 per cent.