The results are not really a surprise, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
In what is the first large study to directly look at HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination and risk of cervical cancer – rather than risk of cervical pre-cancers – researchers found that vaccination substantially lowered cancer risk. And vaccination at younger ages, lowered risk even further.
The cohort study followed approximately 1.6 million Swedish girls and women between 2006 and 2017. During that period, around 500,000 received an HPV vaccine that protected against four key types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Cases of cervical cancer were tracked in both the vaccinated group and unvaccinated group using the Swedish Cancer Registry.
Overall, being vaccinated against HPV was linked to a nearly 50 percent reduction in the risk of cervical cancer compared to not being vaccinated. When vaccination happened at age 16 or younger – an age where previous exposure to the virus is less likely – the drop in risk rose to over 80 percent. However, even in those vaccinated between 17 and 30 years old, there was still significant benefit, with around a 35 to 50 percent lower risk of cervical cancer.
As we’ve noted previously, our very first post on this blog way back in 2003 was about positive initial results of the HPV vaccine. After so many years, it is wonderful to have the results of this new study further confirm the promise of the HPV vaccine, and that, as many public service announcements have promoted: It Is Cancer Prevention.