School vaccination programs appeared to have helped in the dramatic decrease of potential cervical cancer cases in Scotland, researchers say.
A study from the University of Aberdeen examined women who had received the HPV vaccine, the BBC reports. Results showed that 758 women were referred for further tests in 2013-2014, a drop from 1,294 in 2008-2009. The vaccinations were launched in 2008 for pre-teen girls ages 12 and 13.
From 2008 to 2010, there was also a follow-up program for girls up to 18 years old, in order to widen the protected population.
According to these figures, the researchers state, the vaccine program was already delivering benefits 20 years earlier than expected.
Maggie Cruickshank, from the School of Medicine and Medical Science and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen and lead author on the study, says, “We thought it might take 20 years to see the benefits of HPV vaccination as it would take time to reduce levels of HPV infection – the virus that causes abnormal cells to develop.” She adds,
But this data shows that we’re already seeing a significant reduction in colposcopy and subsequent treatment for pre-cancer.
This is highly encouraging, Cruickshank says. “This is great news for women as this means they can avoid the short-term negative effects of colposcopy such as pain and bleeding, but also longer term, there are concerns that some women treated for pre-cancer changes can have an increased risk of pre-term labor. So we’re showing that the vaccination is not only protecting against cancer but also, the immediate risks of the colposcopy and longer term, hopefully the increased risk of pre-term labor.”
Mary Ann Lumsden, senior vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says this is a step forward in the fight against cervical cancer, which is the second most common form of cancer in women younger than 35. “We welcome these extremely encouraging results which reveal a reduction in the number of young women being referred for a colposcopy with early signs of potential cervical cancer – this is most likely due to the HPV vaccination program’s success.”
The study was published in BJOG.