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A research paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is safe and efficacious across a wide age range of women. The international study found that it protects against HPV infection in women older than 26 years. Vaccination programs worldwide currently target routine vaccination of women 26 years and younger.
The study recruited women in 12 countries across four continents. Cosette Wheeler, PhD, at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the lead author of the report.
The human papillomaviruses cause cancer of the cervix, anus, and middle throat. Five types of HPV account for about 85 percent of all invasive cervical cancer cases. HPV vaccines are expected to prevent most of these cancer cases.
Many countries routinely vaccinate girls and boys 25 years and younger, although vaccination rates in the United States remain low. In the US, only about 40 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys receive the three-dose vaccination series. The earlier the vaccine is given, the more efficacious it can be.
This study focused on the benefit of vaccinating women 26 years and older. Infection with HPV can take place at any time throughout adulthood and women in this age group may have already been exposed to HPV. The study showed that women in this age group were still protected from HPV infections.
The scientists followed each woman for four to seven years. They found that the vaccine protected the women against HPV infections during the follow-up period and that the women were protected from many types of HPV across a broad age range. These study results are essential to new approaches in cancer prevention, particularly those that are investigating combined approaches of cervical screening and vaccination in adult women.
Cosette Wheeler, PhD is a UNM Regents Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. She holds the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Translational Medicine and Public Health. Her New Mexico research group has contributed for over 20 years to understanding the molecular epidemiology of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in cervical pre-cancer and cancer among Native American, Hispanic and non-Hispanic women of the southwest and on a global basis. She has overseen a number of large-scale multidisciplinary population-based projects that have ultimately enabled advances in primary (HPV vaccines) and secondary cervical cancer prevention (Pap and HPV tests).
Source: University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center