Cervical cancer – A single vaccine could benefit most women
The risk of developing cervical cancer by women infected with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is essentially the same no matter which type of virus is involved, provided it belongs to the group of 15 or so that are currently identified as high risk, a scientist said today.
Speaking at ECCO 12 – The European Cancer Conference in Copenhagen, Dr. Xavier Bosch, of the Institut Català dOncologia, Barcelona, Spain, said that testing with a cocktail of the majority of high risk type virus would provide a sufficient answer for clinical guidance, and be important to the success of any future screening or vaccination programmes.
HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In many cases the infections are harmless and go away without the need for treatment.
But persistent infection with certain types of HPV increases the risk of cervical cancer. These types can be detected in 90-100% of cases of cervical cancer, as opposed to 5-20% of controls. These types are believed to be a necessary cause of cervical cancer and this provides a strong rationale for their use in screening and for the development of anti-HPV vaccines.
"Women who are not infected persistently with one of the cancer-causing types of HPV do not develop cervical cancer", said Dr. Bosch, "and this knowledge is helping us develop effective prevention programmes."
Dr. Bosch and colleagues derived their specific risk estimates from studying a pool of evidence collected by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, based in Lyon, France. In Europe it is estimated that 65000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, of which 21000 eventually lead to death. HPV carriers are typically young and sexually active, and evidence suggests that males and females are equally likely to be carriers. "In Europe and North America a vaccine including HPV 16 and 18 – the most common high risk types of the virus – would prevent 72% of cases among the vaccinated", said Dr. Bosch. "A vaccine containing types 16,18,33,31 and 45 would cover 84% of the cases."
HPV vaccinations are still in the experimental stage, and the vaccine would be expensive at introduction, said Dr. Bosch. "But the gains in the longer term would be huge, both in terms of healthcare costs and in womens quality of life. In the meantime, participation in effective screening programs, particularly if they includes HPV testing, can detect and prevent many potential cases of cervical cancer at a very early stage."
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Margaret Willson | EurekAlert!