HPV-vaccinated women only need three smear tests, study suggests

Alicia Farmer
November 12, 2017

Robert Music, chief executive at Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, added: 'HPV primary testing has been shown to be a much more effective screening test and it is positive to see that it could lead to reductions in the number of screens women need to attend in their lifetime, especially in those who have been vaccinated.

Under the new programme, cervical samples will tested for HPV but only checked for abnormal cells if the virus is found.

The differences in screening frequency are based on age-specific risk of cervical cancer. The current test checks for abnormalities first, which is less efficient, noted the researchers.

Their new study suggested these women could still be effectively protected from cancer with fewer smear tests, following both HPV vaccination and the introduction of improved screening.

"These women are far less likely to develop cervical cancer so they don't need such stringent routine checking as those at a higher risk".

Statistical modelling showed limited benefit to additional screening tests in women who received the HPV-16/18 vaccine as children.

"If we can demonstrate that the body mounts an immune response to having an IUD placed, for example, then we could begin investigating whether an IUD can clear a persistent HPV infection in a clinical trial", said co-author Laila Muderspach, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School. CDC guidelines recommends that 11 to 12 years olds receive two doses of the vaccine at least six months apart, before they become sexually active.

Since 2008, the HPV vaccine has been offered to schoolgirls aged 11-13 across the UK.

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"This is great news for women", says Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, which funded the study.

"It's great when a woman makes a decision about contraception, she gets along with the prevention of oncological diseases", says the study's lead author, Professor Victoria Cortessis (Victoria Cortessis).

The current HPV vaccine protects women against the most unsafe forms of HPV significantly reducing the chance of developing cervical cancer.

More research is needed to understand the mechanism at play. In 2012, according to the who, over half a million women worldwide were diagnosed with "cervical cancer" and nearly 270 thousand women died from this disease.

The eldest of those girls are now in their early 20s, close to the age for their first cervical screening invitation.

They found that among the women involved in the study, those using IUD reduced their risk of cancer by 36% compared to those who did not use the contraceptive.

Public Health England (PHE) has appealed to young women to take up their cervical screening invitation.

'Screening attendance is falling across the United Kingdom and in England is now at 20-year low'.

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