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Cervical cancer could be wiped out within 100 years as vaccines lead to 89% drop in diagnoses

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Cervical cancer could be wiped out in Britain within two decades and the world within a century.

That is if vaccination and screening programme targets are met, according to the scientists who made the calculations.

World health officials plan for 90 per cent of schoolgirls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) by 2030.

The bug is passed on during sex and close skin contact, and is the cause of almost 100 per cent of cervical cancers.

Goals for 70 per cent of women to be screened for the disease at least once or twice in their lifetime have also been set.

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Professor Marc Brisson, who led the research at the University of Laval in Canada, said: “If the strategy is adopted and applied by member states, cervical cancer could be eliminated in high income countries by 2040 and across the globe within the next century, which would be a phenomenal victory for women’s health.”

A vaccine for HPV has been offered to girls since 2008, and was made available to boys last year.

The virus lives in the skin around the genitals and can be passed on through sex – even if it is with a condom – and other intimate contact.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.

Spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex and skin-to-skin contact between genitals, it is extremely common.

Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives.

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 of which can affect the genital area. Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious.

Many people never show symptoms, as they can arise years after infection, and the majority of cases go away without treatment.

It can lead to genital warts, and is also known to cause cervical cancer by creating an abnormal tissue growth.

HPV can also cause cancers of the throat, neck, tongue, tonsils, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can take years for cancer to develop.

Professor Brisson’s international team found with vaccination alone, incidence could drop by 89 per cent within a century in the 78 countries worst affected – preventing 60 million cases.

The plan also urges for 70 per cent of women to be screened for the disease once or twice in their lifetime, and 90 per cent of women with precancerous lesions or cervical cancer to receive appropriate treatment.

By adding the two screening tests and therapy, numbers should plunge by 97 per cent – with 72million cases averted over 100 years.

Furthermore, with scale-up of appropriate treatment 62million deaths from the disease would be avoided, the team said.

The conclusions were published in The Lancet and are based on a draft ‘elimination strategy’ drawn up by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The strategy is set to be outlined by the WHO at its forthcoming annual conference in May, when policies are discussed.

“For the first time, we have estimated how many cases of cervical cancer could be averted if WHO’s strategy is rolled out and when elimination might occur,” Brisson said.

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“Our results suggest that to eliminate cervical cancer it will be necessary to achieve both high vaccination coverage and a high uptake of screening and treatment, especially in countries with the highest burden of the disease.

“However, this can only be achieved with considerable international financial and political commitment, in order to scale up prevention and treatment.”

Cervical cancer kills 270,000 women worldwide every year.

Smear tests have made cervical cancer cases rare. A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.

Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.

Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.

In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.

Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.

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Cervical cancer
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