Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination substantially lowered the risk of cervical cancer, especially when administered early, according to a new study.
Researchers in Sweden published their findings on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, which said evidence was otherwise lacking on the issue.
The study found that those vaccinated before age 17 had an 88% lower risk of cervical cancer than those never vaccinated.
“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those with weakened immune systems may have more difficulty fighting the virus, which can lead to health issues like genital warts and cancers. The CDC recommends two doses of the HPV vaccine for boys and girls aged 11 to 12, though vaccination can start as young as age 9. Pushing off vaccination may result in needing three doses instead of two, the agency said.
The study followed nearly 1.7 million females ages 10 to 30 living in Sweden from 2006 through 2017 to find the association between HPV vaccination and the risk of cervical cancer. Among those vaccinated, 438,939, or 83%, started vaccination before age 17.
Cervical cancer was diagnosed in 19 women who were vaccinated and 538 women who were not.
“Although the efficacy and effectiveness of the HPV vaccination against HPV infection, genital warts, and high-grade cervical lesions have been established, our results extend this knowledge base by showing that quadrivalent HPV vaccination is also associated with a substantially reduced risk of invasive cervical cancer, which is the ultimate intent of HPV vaccination programs,” study authors wrote.
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