Giving HPV jab to women with pre-cancerous cells on their cervix may ward off cancer, study suggests
- Team examined data on women who had pre-cancerous cells removed
- Those given HPV jab were 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again
- Also three-quarters lower risk of developing HPV behind most cervical cancers
Giving women with pre-cancerous cells on their cervix the HPV vaccine could cut their risk of developing cervical cancer, scientists say.
Imperial College London experts reviewed studies involving thousands of women vaccinated against HPV who had to have pre-cancerous cells removed.
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that those who were given an additional HPV jab alongside treatment were around 60 per cent 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’.
Imperial College London researchers reviewed studies involving thousands of women vaccinated against HPV who had to have pre-cancerous cells removed. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal , suggest that those who were given an additional HPV jab alongside treatment were around 60 per cent less likely to develop worrying cells again
WHAT IS HPV? THE INFECTION LINKED TO 99% OF CERVICAL CANCER CASES
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.
Spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex and skin-to-skin contact between genitals, it is extremely common.
Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 of which can affect the genital area. Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious.
Many people never show symptoms, as they can arise 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 an abnormal tissue growth.
Annually, 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 others cancers does it cause?
Girls and boys aged 12 to 13 are routinely offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab in the UK, while children in the US are offered the jab from the age of nine.
It helps prevent against cancers caused by the virus, such as cervical, anal and some head and neck cancers.
The vaccine was introduced in 2008 and people who were over the age of 13 before that date are not routinely offered the jab, under the NHS’s programme.
But the latest study suggests that women with pre-cancerous cells on their cervix — scientifically known as cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) — might benefit from receiving it.
CIN, caused by HPV, is not cancer but can develop into cervical cancer if not treated.
Cervical smear tests detect abnormal cells. Follow-up tests are needed to confirm if CIN is present.
Surgery may be needed to remove them.
Once a woman is identified as having high-grade pre-cancerous cells on her cervix she has a life-long risk of developing cervical cancer.
Earlier research suggests that giving a preventative HPV vaccine alongside surgery to remove abnormal CIN cells can help reduce the risk to women.
To further explore this, experts analysed results from 18 studies to assess whether HPV jabs reduced the risk of abnormal cells recurring after surgery.
The studies monitored women for three years, on average.
The results showed that the risk of recurrence of ‘high-grade preinvasive disease’ was 57 per cent lower among those who were vaccinated alongside their surgery, compared to those not given the jab.
The findings were even stronger among women who were found to carry the strains of the virus most linked to cervical cancer.
However, the researchers noted that the effects of the vaccine are unclear because data was limited and the studies had a moderate to high risk of bias.
And there was a lack of evidence to determine whether the HPV jab reduced the chance of vulvar, vaginal or anal lesions and genital warts.
Additionally, the participants’ average age was not logged in most studies and risk factors, such as smoking, were not controlled for.
However, the team said they had strict inclusion criteria together and evaluated study quality and bias, which suggests the results are robust.
But they noted that high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed to determine the effectiveness and cost of HPV vaccination.