An exciting new study from Public Health Scotland (PHS), in collaboration with the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh, shows that no cervical cancer cases have been detected in fully vaccinated women following the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation at age 12-13 since the programme started in Scotland in 2008.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute today, concludes that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing the development of cervical cancer.
HPV is a common virus, usually spread through sexual contact, and responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer – the fourth-most common cause of cancer in women worldwide.
The HPV vaccine is offered as a routine immunisation through school-based programmes to all S1 pupils in Scotland.
It helps to protect both boys and girls from other HPV-related cancers later in life, such as head, neck and anogenital cancers as well as genital warts.
This year’s HPV immunisation programme is already underway, with consent forms having been sent home from schools across most of Scotland.
Young people are encouraged to talk to their parents or carers about the vaccine and return the signed consent forms by the deadline.
Dr Kirsty Roy, Consultant in Health Protection, PHS, and co-author of this encouraging study said:
“This study involves every woman in Scotland who is eligible for the cervical cancer screening programme and demonstrates the impact of the HPV vaccine in preventing cervical cancer.
“It shows how effective the HPV vaccine is as there have been no cervical cancer cases to date in fully vaccinated women who were given their first dose at age 12-13 years.
“Vaccination against HPV is shown to be effective in preventing cervical cancer, and along with regular screening for early detection and treatment, it is possible to make cervical cancer a rare disease.”
Dr Claire Cameron, Consultant in Health Protection, PHS said:
“By continuing to vaccinate against HPV-related cancers, and encouraging uptake of screening, we hope to see them eliminated in the future.
“I would encourage all S1 pupils in Scotland to take up the offer of the free HPV vaccine in the coming months to protect themselves against future risks.”
“PHS is working closely with Scottish Government and local health boards to ensure the continued uptake of the key cervical cancer prevention measures – the HPV vaccine and routine screening.”
Dr Tasmin Sommerfield, Clinical Advisor for Screening at National Screening Oversight (NSO), said:
“While the HPV vaccine protects against a lot of the different types of HPV virus that cause cancer, it can’t protect against them all and it’s still important that you go for regular cervical screening.
“Screening can find changes in the cells in your cervix even if you feel healthy and have no symptoms.
“If these are found at an early stage they are much easier to treat.
“Cervical screening is the best way of finding out if you are at risk of cervical cancer and I would urge everyone to take up their offer of an appointment.”
Minister for Public Health Jenni Minto said:
“We welcome the findings of this report which shows there have been no cases of cervical cancer detected to date in fully vaccinated women who were given their first dose at aged 12 and 13 years old.
“The HPV vaccine programme is having a huge impact on preventing these cancers for those who have been vaccinated.
“Vaccination and screening remain the most effective ways of preventing and detecting cervical cancer and I would encourage those eligible to come forward to have the vaccine or attend screening appointments.”