New research suggests that a recently developed human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can potentially prevent 80 percent of cervical cancers if it is administered before the child is 11 or 12 years old.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can spread from one partner to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. And an estimated three-quarters of sexually active women are believed to have caught HPV at some point in their life.
In the study, it was discovered that the new version of the 9-Valent vaccine — which guards against seven cancer-causing HPV strains — can potentially protect against 19,000 other cancers, including anal, oral, and penile.
This advanced vaccine is also said to increase the protection from HPV-related cancers, including those of the vulva, from 71 to 92 percent; vagina, from 73 percent to 98 percent; the penis, 76 percent to 90 percent; and the anus, 87 percent to 96 percent.
“This is the first comprehensive study of its kind and shows the potential to not only reduce the global cancer burden, but also guide clinical decision-making with regard to childhood vaccinations,” said Marc T. Goodman, the study’s senior author and director of Cancer Prevention and Genetics at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States — affecting more than 12,000 and killing over 4,000 each year. However, since the past 40 years, the numbers have declined significantly due to more women getting regular Pap tests, which can detect precancerous growths.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, also found that the vaccine can likely protect against an additional 5.7 percent of oropharyngeal cancers, which include the base of the tongue and tonsils and is the second-most-common HPV-associated cancer.
“We found that 70 percent of patient DNA tissue samples with cancer of the oropharynx harbored HPV… This is a much higher percentage of HPV than observed in other studies, likely because of changes in sexual behaviors, such as increased oral-genital contact.”
The new version of the vaccine will undoubtedly provide women with some much-needed health benefits, but Goodman also stresses that the vaccine is for girls and boys as penile, anal, and oral cancers are linked to HPV as well. Explaining that if a boy is vaccinated and he has sex with a girl who isn’t, he could possibly reduce the chances of HPV being transmitted to her.
The reimagined vaccine was analyzed in a joint study that was initiated by the CDC in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai. And the data was compiled from 2,670 HPV DNA tissue samples that came from seven population-based cancer registries.
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