Published on: 1st June 2017
Case Study 35
Dr Kevin Pollock, Health Protection Scotland
Dr Kate Cuschieri, Scottish HPV Reference Lab and University of Edinburgh
By looking at data from over 20,000 women, Scottish researchers have shown the positive effect the HPV vaccine has had.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. It develops in the cervix – the entrance to the womb – and is often caused by a virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). Since 2008, girls aged 12-13 in the UK have been offered vaccination against HPV.
Now, almost a decade later, researchers are looking at how effective the vaccine has been for women who were vaccinated as teenagers.
A research team, led by senior epidemiologist Dr Kevin Pollock at Health Protection Scotland, looked at samples from more than 20,000 women, making it one of the largest population-based studies on the impact of the vaccine.
They compared the cervical screening (previously known as smear test) and vaccination records of women born in 1995, who had been vaccinated as teenagers, with those from unvaccinated women born between 1989 and 1990.
The researchers found that just 0.5% of women from the 1995 group tested positive for the virus, compared with 21.4% of women born before 1990. The study also showed evidence
that the vaccine protected against three other high-risk HPV types involved in the development of cervical cancer, not just the two types it was designed to protect against.
By looking at the data of both vaccinated and non-vaccinated women, the researchers could clearly see the positive effect the vaccine has had. This reinforces the advice to parents to have their daughters vaccinated at age 12 – 13, as this dramatically reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer.
After seeing that the vaccine also effectively prevented three other high-risk HPV types, the researchers are now forecasting a 90% reduction in cervical cancer in Scotland within the next few years.
Enquiries to Sabine Kurz, Communications Assistant, The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, firstname.lastname@example.org