When doctors learned an STD called Human Papilloma virus was linked to cervical cancer, they encouraged women to get annual pap smears to spot the virus or the cancer early. But a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds vaccinating women against a strain called HPV-16 can prevent the strain and pre-cancerous lesions.
While it's too early to tell, doctors think this vaccine could lead to other vaccines that can prevent viruses linked to other forms of cancer.
Like most vaccines, it only protects those who aren't already infected with HPV-16. Approximately 20 percent of the population has that type of HPV, and some 60-80 percent of people have some form of HPV.
Researchers say it may be at least five years until the vaccine is available on the market, and in the meantime, women should continue annual tests.
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- Every year in the United States, approximately 12,900 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,400 women die of the disease.
- Worldwide, cervical cancer affects 400,000 women annually.
- After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common malignancy found in women.
- In some parts of the world, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women.
- With early and regular screening, most cases of cervical cancer can be prevented.
What Is HPV?
- Human Papilloma virus, or HPV, is recognized as the primary cause of cervical cancer.
- HPV is present in virtually all cases of cervical cancer.
- HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.
- More than 70 types of HPV have been identified, but only 23 of these infect the cervix, and of these, 13 key types are associated with cancer and considered “high risk.”
- Women over 35 with persistent infection with one of the “high risk” HPV types are at most risk for developing cervical cancer.
Detecting Cervical Cancer
- The Pap test is a widely used and effective tool to screen for cervical cancer, having reduced the incidence of cervical cancer in the U.S. by 75 percent over the past 50 years.
- In many cases the Pap test can be inconclusive. Of the 50 million Pap tests performed in the U.S. annually, between two and three million produce inconclusive results.
- HPV testing determines the presence of those HPV types that are currently known to lead to cervical cancer and is used in evaluating abnormal Pap tests.
- HPV testing, combined with the Pap test and appropriate follow-up testing, can increase the detection rate for cervical cancer.
Source: http://www.cervicalcancercampaign.org/ (The National HPV and Cervical Cancer Campaign Web site) contributed to this report