A study has found that giving an injection of HPV to women with pre-cancerous cells in the cervix may protect against cancer.
- The team examined data on women who had pre-cancerous cells removed
- Those who received the HPV vaccine were 60% less likely to develop worrisome cells again
- Also, three-quarters of the risk of developing HPV is lower than that of most cervical cancers
Giving women with pre-cancerous cells of the cervix the human papillomavirus vaccine can reduce the risk of cervical cancer, scientists said.
Imperial College London experts reviewed studies involving thousands of women vaccinated against HPV who had to have their pre-cancerous cells removed.
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, indicate that those who received an extra injection of HPV alongside treatment were 60 percent less likely to develop worrisome cells again.
The researchers note that their findings need to be confirmed in large-scale studies but they believe the findings are “robust”.
Imperial College London researchers reviewed studies involving thousands of women vaccinated against HPV who had to have their pre-cancerous cells removed. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, indicate that those who received an extra injection of HPV along with the treatment were 60 percent less likely to develop worrisome cells again.
What is HPV? Infection associated with 99% of cervical cancer cases
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.
It is spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex and skin-to-genital contact, and is very common.
Up to eight in 10 people will contract the virus at some point in their lives.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. About 30 of them can affect the genital area. Genital HPV infection is very common and contagious.
Many people never have symptoms, as they can appear years after infection, and the majority of cases go away without treatment.
It can lead to genital warts, and is also known to cause cervical cancer by creating abnormal tissue growth.
Annually, 38,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the United States, 3,100 cases of cervical cancer in the United Kingdom and about 2,000 other cases of cancer are diagnosed in men.
What other cancers do they cause?
- the vagina
Girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 13 are routinely offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) injection in the UK, while children in the US are offered the shot from the age of nine.
It helps prevent cancers caused by the virus, such as cervical, anal and some head and neck cancers.
The vaccine was introduced in 2008 and the vaccine was not routinely offered to people over the age of 13 before that date, under the NHS programme.
But the latest study suggests that women who have precancerous cells in the cervix — known scientifically as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) — may benefit from receiving it.
CIN, which is caused by the human papillomavirus, is not cancer but can develop into cervical cancer if it is not treated.
Pap smear tests detect the abnormal cells. Follow-up tests are needed to confirm the presence of CIN.
Surgery may be required to remove them.
Once it is recognized that a woman has high-quality cervical cancer cells, she is at risk of developing cervical cancer for life.
Previous research suggests that giving a preventive HPV vaccine along with surgery to remove abnormal CIN cells can help reduce risks for women.
To further explore this matter, experts analyzed the results of 18 studies evaluating whether HPV vaccines reduce the risk of abnormal cells returning after surgery.
The studies monitored women for an average of three years.
The results showed that the risk of recurring “high-grade pre-invasive disease” was 57 percent lower among those who were vaccinated along with surgery, compared to those who did not receive the vaccine.
The results were strongest among women who were found to carry the virus strains most closely associated with cervical cancer.
However, the researchers note that the effects of the vaccine are unclear because the data were limited and the studies had a moderate to high risk of bias.
And there was a lack of evidence to determine whether the HPV vaccine reduces the chance of developing lesions of the vulva, vagina, or anus, and genital warts.
In addition, the mean age of participants was not recorded in most studies and risk factors, such as smoking, were not controlled for.
However, the team said they had strict inclusion criteria together and assessed study quality and bias, indicating that the findings are robust.
They note, however, that high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the efficacy and cost of HPV vaccination.
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