‘Dramatic’ drop in cervical disease as a result of vaccination
A vaccine against a cervical infection in girls has led to a “dramatic” drop in diseases linked to cancer, researchers have said.
The sexually transmitted human papilomavirus (HPV) infection is linked to cervical cancer, and an immunisation programme was introduced for 12- and 13-year-old girls 10 years ago.
The programme was designed to tackle two types of HPV, but it has now found to be effective against five.
Researchers now say the “highly effective” vaccine has led to a 90 per cent drop in pre-cancerous cells picked up in smear tests.
The programme is to be extended to boys this year.
140,000 women in Scotland were screened by researchers from the universities of Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Caledonian, and the results published in the British Medical Journal.
Dr Kevin Pollock, of Glasgow Caledonian University, told Good Morning Scotland: “The main message is that the vaccine works. As long as the high uptake continues, the virus has got nowhere to go and it is being eliminated.
"We assessed 140,000 women in this study and because we can link status of vaccination to the disease its impact is indisputable.”
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I welcome this positive news in the report from the BMJ. In Scotland, uptake for the HPV immunisation programme remains high and continues to exceed 80 per cent.
“These new findings show the levels of cancer-causing HPV in Scotland have dropped by 90 per cent in young women, demonstrating the significant and continued benefits of our vaccination programme. We remain committed to ensuring Scottish girls benefit from this vaccine, which, as this study shows, will save lives.
“We are, of course, building on this success and extending the HPV vaccine programme to boys later this year.
"Meanwhile, it remains important that women continue to take up the invitation for their regular cervical screening as we know it saves lives.
"The test is unique as it can prevent the disease before it even begins, and treatment as a result of screening prevents eight out of ten cervical cancers from developing.”