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Vaccination Against HPV Decreases Cervical Cancer, Especially in Young Women

HPV vaccination decreases cervical cancer incidence and mortality, but it is most effective in young women and girls.

Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection, is implicated in most cases of cervical cancer. Vaccination against HPV is recommended for girls and women 11-16 years of age, but there has been insufficient data to analyze vaccine-associated changes in cervical cancer mortality.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics endeavored to quantify any correlation between the implementation of the HPV vaccine in 2006 and cervical cancer incidence and mortality.

The investigators collected national age-adjusted cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results and National Program of Cancer Registries databases (incidence) and the National Center for Health Statistics
(mortality). From January 2001-December 2017, they analyzed data for women and girls 15-39 years of age.

The quasi-experimental analyses compared cervical cancer incidence and mortality changes pre-HPV vaccination (January 2001-Decmeber 2005) to post-vaccination (January 2010-December 2017). Incidence and mortality rates were also examined across age groups, 15-24 years, 25-29 years, and 30-39 years, given the lower vaccination rates of the older 2 groups.

For these 3 age groups, cervical cancer incidence rates were 0.68, 5.47, and 12.60 per 100000, respectively, and cervical cancer mortality rates were 0.06, 0.57, and 1.89 per
10000. The reduction in cancer incidence from 2001-2005 to 2010-2017 was greatest among those aged 15-24 years.

The decrease in cervical cancer mortality was also greatest among the 15-24 age group than the older 2 groups.

The decreases in cervical cancer correlated with the implementation of the HPV vaccine in 2006, as did the lowest incidence and mortality rates in the group most likely to be vaccinated (15-24-year-olds).

Previous studies have found HPV vaccination also prevented precancerous lesions in addition to lowering cervical cancer incidence. Existing US data confirms this study’s findings of decreased cervical cancer in younger women but not older women, demonstrating the importance of girls and adolescents receiving the HPV vaccine as soon as they are eligible.