New research has confirmed that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has reduced the frequency of abnormal Pap test results and precancers in women.
Scientists at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and The University of Queensland used Queensland Health datasets to show that women who were fully vaccinated were far less likely to develop the high-risk abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer.
Study spokesperson, Professor David Whiteman, said the findings showed the value of the national HPV vaccination program, which began in 2007.
“We always knew the vaccine was safe and effective in the narrow, controlled environment of clinical trials. This significant study proves its “real world” value on a broad scale,” Professor Whiteman said.
“Australia was one of the first countries to undertake mass HPV vaccination. This analysis of how well the vaccine has worked in the first four years of the program supports the decision to roll it out across the country.
“By preventing those cervical changes that are a precursor to cancer, the vaccination program saves lives and minimises future health expenditure.”
The HPV vaccine (sometimes called the cervical cancer vaccine) was developed by former Australian of the Year, UQ Professor Ian Frazer, and colleagues. The vaccine, which is given as three doses over six months, is provided free for girls and boys in the first year of high school.
HPV vaccinations given in Queensland as part of the national immunisation program are recorded by Queensland Health, which also administers the Queensland Pap Smear Register (PSR). This study linked the data from both registers, for the first four years of the vaccination program.
The researchers found that young women who had received three doses of the HPV vaccine had a 46% lower risk of developing high-grade changes in the cervix than those who had not been vaccinated.
Co-author and Medical Director of the National HPV Vaccination Program Register, Dr Julia Brotherton, said the research was great news for Australian women.
“And with the program now vaccinating boys as well, Australia is leading the way in preventing HPV infection and the cancers it can cause,” Dr Brotherton said .
“It is still important that women remember to go for Pap tests though, because the vaccine can’t prevent all of the types of HPV that can cause problems.”
The study was published in the British Medical Journal and can be viewed at www.bmj.com