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HPV Vaccine Slashes Cases of Cervical Cancer

Cancer of the cervix, the channel between the vagina and the uterus, has long been a problem for women’s health. Physicians strive to detect this cancer early by doing Pap smears as part of a pelvic exam. Rates of cervical cancer have been dropping in the US over the past few decades, but it still kills around 4,000 people a year. Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is a major risk factor. Can the HPV vaccine reduce the chance of this potentially deadly cancer?

How Well Does HPV Vaccine Work?

A new study shows that the HPV vaccine is extremely effective at preventing cervical cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Jan. 22, 2024). Such cancers are associated with infection with human papillomavirus, also known as genital warts.

The study is from Scotland and utilized medical records of women born between 1988 and 1996 to get quite a complete picture.  Those who were fully vaccinated against HPV when they were 12 or 13 have not developed cervical cancer. That is to say, researchers did not find a single case of cervical cancer in this group in the entire country. Approximately 40,000 women were vaccinated at that young age, before becoming sexually active.

Another 124,000 women got the HPV vaccine when they were 14 or older. Scientists found a rate of 3.2 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women in this category. In comparison, 300,000 women in this same age group were not vaccinated. Researchers found about 8.4 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 unvaccinated women. These results confirm earlier findings of HPV vaccine effectiveness from Finland.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Palmer TJ et al, "Invasive cervical cancer incidence following bivalent human papillomavirus vaccination: a population-based observational study of age at immunization, dose, and deprivation." Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Jan. 22, 2024. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djad263
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