TUESDAY, March 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers
more evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a
powerful weapon in the fight against cervical cancer.
In a study that examined the vaccine's effectiveness in a large
population of Australian women, the University of Queensland
researchers claim their finding suggests HPV vaccination is
effective when given to a broad swath of individuals.
HPV can lead to precancerous lesions of the cervix, genital
warts and cervical cancer, said Dr. Subhakar Mutyala, associate
director of Scott & White Cancer Institute at Texas A&M
College of Medicine. Mutyala, who was not involved in the study,
said clinical trials have shown that HPV vaccination in young women
can prevent HPV infection, with a goal of decreasing cervical
Australia was the first country to create a national vaccine
program using public funds, and health officials there began
vaccinating women against the virus in 2007.
The study authors collected data from 2007 to 2011, using a
population register in Queensland. More than 100,000 women, who
ranged in age from 12 to 26, received their first-ever Pap test
during that period. Pap tests look for precancerous and cancerous
lesions on the cervix.
To learn more about the effectiveness of the vaccine, the
researchers divided the women into three groups based on results
from their Pap tests: One group tested positive for precancerous
and cancerous lesions; one group tested positive for abnormal but
not precancerous lesions; and a third "control" group had normal
Pap test results.
The authors then examined the effectiveness of the vaccine in
"sexually naive" women who had no prior infection, some of whom had
received one dose, two doses or three doses of the three-dose HPV
The authors reported that three doses provided 46 percent
protection against "high-grade" cervical abnormalities, such as
precancerous lesions, and 34 percent protection against other
cervical abnormalities, such as genital warts, compared to women
who had not received the shots.
The researchers also found that two doses of the vaccine
provided 21 percent protection against high-grade abnormalities and
other cervical abnormalities. One dose of the vaccine did not
shield from infection.
The findings are published online March 4 in
"It's an important study," said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and of public health at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "They compared women with cervical disease and women without, and they found a significant protection rate, nearly a 50 percent reduction in risk in women vaccinated versus unvaccinated women."
Mutyala noted the study shows that in real life -- not just in a
controlled research setting -- the vaccine has a significant impact
on the health of women.
"The goal is to eradicate the HPV virus in our entire population, and the study actually shows the vaccine is working in Australia," Mutyala said. "It's decreasing those cellular level, microscopic-level abnormalities picked up on a Pap test."
In a separate study published last month in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Danish researchers
reported that young women who received HPV vaccination had a much
lower risk for precancerous lesions compared to those who weren't
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, about 15,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women each
year, and cervical cancer is the most common type. Approximately
7,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in men, with throat cancers the
Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration and recommended by CDC -- Cervarix and Gardasil.
Mutyala said the vaccines are approved by the FDA for use in boys
and girls aged 9 and up. He said only about one-third of girls in
the United States are currently vaccinated, and only about 7
percent of boys.
Klausner said the United States should have better HPV public
education and vaccination programs.
"It's shameful that in the United States, the richest country in the world, we can't vaccinate against cancer," said Klausner, who recently reviewed HPV vaccination in Rwanda, Africa, where the vaccination rate is 97 percent. "The vaccine works and it's safe."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on
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