The HPV vaccine could one day lead to the eradication of cervical cancer, according to a new study that found the benefits of the vaccine “exceed expectations.”
International researchers looked at 65 studies involving more than 60 million people across 14 countries who received the HPV vaccine, NBC News reported.
Over the course of eight years, they found that HPV 16 and 18 — the two strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers — dropped 83 percent in girls ages 13 to 19 and 66 percent in women ages 20 to 24, the World Health Organization study published Wednesday by The Lancet said.
Researchers also found a decrease in precancerous cells in the cervix — 51 percent in girls ages 15-19 and 31 percent among women aged 20-24.
“Because of our finding, we believe the WHO call for action to eliminate cervical cancer may be possible in many countries if sufficient vaccination coverage can be achieved,” Marc Brisson, a professor at Laval University in Canada and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.
The countries involved also saw evidence that herd immunity works — there were decreases in the number of genital warts among unvaccinated boys and older women.
Meanwhile, among girls, there was a drop in diagnoses of three HPV strains that the vaccine doesn’t cover, a phenomenon known as cross-protection, according to NBC News.
“The impact of the HPV vaccination has actually exceeded expectations,” said Lauri Markowitz, associate director of science for HPV at the CDC who worked on the study. “The trials showed that HPV vaccines are very effective, and data from the real world has confirmed that.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both girls and boys receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. But it can be administered as early as age 9.
The breakthrough findings come the same day the US’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend vaccines for both men and women up to age 26.
The CDC almost always accepts the panel’s recommendations and uses them as guidance for doctors.
Roughly half of Americans ages 18 to 59 had some form of genital HPV, a virus that can cause certain cancers and genital warts, the CDC estimates.
The panel decided to equalize the age between men and women to make it easier on doctors. Previously, men were recommended to get the vaccine up until age 21.
The HPV vaccine first hit the market in 2006 and each dose currently costs $216.
With Post wires
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