A new study based in the UK used a mathematical model to determine whether the HPV vaccine will reduce the number of cervical screenings required.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) can lead to the development of cervical cancer. In particular, patients with HPV types 16 and 18 are known to be at a high risk of cervical cancer. Two public health interventions to prevent cervical cancer are cervical screening and HPV vaccination. The main objective of cervical screening is to identify and treat precancerous changes to the cervix, preventing the development of cervical cancer. HPV vaccination, on the other hand, protects girls from HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 along with HPV types 16 and 18 which are responsible for approximately 90% of all cervical cancers.
A new study has found that women who received the HPV vaccine may now only need three cervical screens in their lifetime. In the study, recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, the authors used a statistical model to show that women who were vaccinated under the current National Health Services (NHS), in England, vaccination program would only need to be screened at ages 30, 40, and 55 years. The authors based their models on both vaccinated and unvaccinated women and they also examined varying degrees of vaccine effectiveness. Their results will be based on how the HPV vaccine and the new cervical screening program, which will be introduced in December 2019, will work together.
The new program, referred to as the HPV primary test, includes testing cervical samples for HPV but only checking for abnormal cells if traces of the virus are found. The current program, which tests first for cervical cell abnormalities, is considered to be less efficient. The authors emphasize that health care providers need to know their patient’s vaccination status as unvaccinated women would still require seven lifetime screens.
Gardasil which protects against HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts, is being used by the NHS vaccine program. The authors are very positive that the NHS would benefit from the investment made in the HPV vaccine.
This important study has implications for the health care regimens for women worldwide, as it suggests some serious changes to cancer prevention recommendations. The results of this study are a testament to the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in the prevention of cervical cancer.
Written by Alexa Deano
(1) Landy, Rebecca, et al. “What cervical screening is appropriate for women who have been vaccinated against high risk HPV? A simulation study.” International Journal of Cancer 142.4 (2018): 709-718.
(2) Gulland, Anne. “HPV vaccinated women need just three cervical screens in their lifetime.” BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online) 359 (2017).