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HPV vaccination and screening will prevent women from rare cervical cancer

Photo: 6000 to be saved from rare cervical cancer
HPV vaccination and screening will prevent thousands of women developing a rare type of cervical cancer.

More than 6000 cases of a rare, hard-to-detect type of cervical cancer will be averted by 2040 as a result of vaccination and screening, according to new research.

An Australian study by Cancer Council NSW has estimated the combined impact of HPV vaccination and HPV-based cervical screening on the future burden of adenocarcinoma.

Using data from four major European randomised controlled trials on the effects of HPV screening and previous published estimates on the impact of vaccination, the researchers estimate that by 2040 the two interventions have the potential to reduce overall rates of adenocarcinoma by 55 per cent to 81 per cent.
This equates to 6121 cases of adenocarcinoma averted.

HPV vaccination alone was estimated to reduce rates by 36-39 per cent.

In the absence of any interventions, up to almost 10,000 adenocarcinomas would be diagnosed in Australia from 2015 to 2040, says Megan Smith, the program manager of the Cervix/HPV and Breast Group at Cancer Council NSW.

"Cervical screening programs like Australia's Pap test program have done a great deal to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality," she said.

"However, these reductions have mainly occurred in squamous cell cancers - the most common cervical cancer. Adenocarcinoma is less common and more difficult to diagnose with a Pap test because it starts developing higher in the cervix."

Data shows adenocarcinoma rates actually increased from 11 per cent of cervical cancers in Australia in 1982 to 22 per cent in 2010.

The HPV vaccine protects against the two high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers in women.

From December, the Pap test every two years for women aged 18 to 69 will change to a HPV screening test every five years for women aged 25 to 74.

"Our findings demonstrate the continued importance of cervical screening in the coming decades, especially for older women who are likely to receive limited benefit from HPV vaccination programs in this time frame," Ms Smith said.

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