Giving HPV vaccine to women with precancerous cells in the cervix may prevent cancer, study suggests
- The team examined data on women who had precancerous cells removed
- People who received the HPV vaccine were 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again
- Also three-quarters lower risk of developing HPV behind most cervical cancers
Giving women with precancerous cells on the cervix the HPV vaccine could reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer, scientists say.
Experts at Imperial College London reviewed studies involving thousands of HPV-vaccinated women who had precancerous cells removed.
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that those who received an additional HPV injection alongside treatment were around 60 percent less likely to develop worrying cells again.
The researchers noted that their findings need to be confirmed in large-scale studies, but believe the results are “robust.”
Researchers at Imperial College London reviewed studies involving thousands of HPV-vaccinated women who had precancerous cells removed. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, suggest that those who received an additional injection of HPV along with treatment were around 60% less likely to develop worrying cells again.
WHAT IS HPV? INFECTION LINKED TO 99% OF CERVICAL CANCER CASES
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect the skin and the moist membranes that cover the body.
Spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and skin-to-skin contact between the genitals, it is extremely common.
As many as eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their life.
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 appear years after infection and most cases go away without treatment.
It can lead to genital warts and is also known to cause cervical cancer by creating an abnormal growth of tissue.
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 about 2,000 other cancers in men.
What other cancers does it cause?
Girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years are routinely offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) injection in the UK, while boys in the US are offered the injection from nine years.
It helps prevent cancers caused by the virus, such as cervical, anal, and some of the head and neck.
The vaccine was introduced in 2008 and, under the NHS programme, people who were over 13 years old before then are not routinely offered the shot.
But the latest study suggests that women with precancerous cells in the cervix, scientifically known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), might benefit from receiving it.
CIN, caused by HPV, is not cancer but can develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.
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 precancerous cells in her cervix, 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 may help reduce risk for women.
To further explore this, the experts analyzed the results of 18 studies to assess whether HPV injections reduced the risk of abnormal cells recurring after surgery.
The studies followed the women for three years, on average.
The results showed that the risk of recurrence of “high-grade preinvasive disease” was 57 percent lower among those who were vaccinated along with surgery, compared to those who did not receive the injection.
The findings were even stronger among women who carried the virus strains most linked to cervical cancer.
However, the researchers noted that the effects of the vaccine are unclear because the data was limited and the studies were at moderate to high risk of bias.
And there was a lack of evidence to determine whether HPV injection reduced the chance of vulvar, vaginal, or anal lesions and genital warts.
In addition, the average age of the 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, suggesting the results are robust.
But they noted that high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the effectiveness and cost of HPV vaccination.