HPV vaccines could mean only one smear test a lifetime

pharmafile | March 2, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

A leading scientist has said that women who have the HPV vaccine may need only one smear test to prevent cervical cancer in their lifetime.

Women are currently invited for screening every three to five years in the UK. Professor Peter Sasieni said that the vaccine was leading to such dramatic reductions in cancer, that the screening programme may soon need to change. Cancer Research UK has still encouraged people to continue coming for screenings when invited.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomaviruses (HPV). These can damage DNA, and can turn healthy cells into cancerous ones. There are over 100 types of HPV, and they are so common that most people are bound to get an infection at some point in their lives.

The turning point in preventing cervical cancer began in the UK in 2008, with the introduction of the HPV vaccine. It is offered to girls aged between 11 and 13, and has been offered to boys of the same age since 2019.

The viruses are spread by close skin-to-skin contact, so the vaccine is administered before school-aged children become sexually active. Positive results from research in December revealed that the vaccine is cutting cervical cancer by nearly 90% in those who choose to have the jab.

Despite this, the UK National Screening Committee is yet to make a decision about the future of cervical screening. Professor Sasieni remarks that the issue is becoming increasingly pressing as the first generation to be vaccinated are not being invited for screening. Sasieni said: “We really want to make those changes over the next couple of years, it is a big change but the vaccine has been so successful this makes perfect sense.”

Lina Adams

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