A new study shows that routine vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), first introduced in 2008, has led to a substantial reduction in the number of young women who have the infection, which can cause cervical cancer.

HPV 16 and 18 infections, which cause the majority of cervical cancer cases, decreased by 86% in women aged 16 to 21 who were eligible for the vaccination as adolescents between 2010 and 2016.

This suggests there could a large drop
in the number of cases of cancer in the future. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35, responsible for around 850 deaths a year.

The surveillance data from England, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases1, shows declines across five high-risk HPV types, which together cause around 90% of cervical cancer cases, as well as low-risk HPV types.

The programme has also led to a marked decline in genital wart diagnoses. The number of diagnoses in sexual health clinics fell in girls aged 15 to 17 by 89%, and in boys of the same age by 70%, between 2009 and 2017 as a result of herd immunity. Genital warts are caused by some low-risk strains of HPV.

The HPV vaccination programme was first introduced in 2008. Over 80% of people aged 15 to 24 have now been vaccinated in the UK.

In England, girls aged 12 to 13 years are routinely offered the first HPV vaccination when they’re in school year 8. The second dose is normally offered 6 to 12 months after the first (in school year 8 or year 9).

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