A double dose of good news on the HPV vaccine


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Researchers say they expect to see a substantial drop in the number of cervical cancer cases over the next decade -- due to the success of the HPV vaccine. 

"HPV is the most commonly transmitted infection worldwide," said Marc Brisson, study co-leader at Laval University in Canada.  "It causes not only genital warts but also cervical lesions and cervical cancer.  In our study, which included 60 million people from 14 countries, we show reductions in all three up to 8 years after vaccination."

"Among 14-19 year old girls, HPV infections declined by more than 80-percent, genital warts declined by 70-percent and pre-cancerous lesions by 50-percent since the introduction of the vaccine in high income countries in 2007," Brisson said. "Unfortunately we had no data from low to middle income countries, partly due to the fact that there's a smaller number of low income countries that vaccinate against HPV."

Dr. Hope Rasque is a board certified colo-rectal surgeon at SSM Health DePaul Hospital.

"The HPV vaccine, also known as Gardasil, helps prevent the HPV virus -- getting exposure to the virus," said Dr. Rasque.  "It is given to young men and women of school age preferably prior to becoming sexually active." The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now says the vaccine is so effective, some people through age 45 could benefit from the vaccine -- and should discuss it with their doctor.

"Initially it was FDA approved for ages 9 to 26," Dr. Rasque tells KMOX.  "But the FDA has now changed the approval up to age 45.  But obviously it is best to be treated with the vaccine prior to exposure -- which means prior to sexual activity." Researchers say the vaccine is working so well it is expected to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer within the next ten years.

"I don't want to send a message that if you are sexually active and you get the HPV vaccine that you are safe because you are not," warns Dr. Rasque.  "Most Americans are exposed to the HPV virus.  Over 80 percent of the population of these sexually active adults have HPV or will have HPV sometime in their lifetime."

In most cases, the body's immune system is able to fight off the virus.

"But there are a hundred different genotypes of HPV virus,"said Dr. Rasque.  "Now who is going to get the high-risk HPV genotype?  No one knows.  But we know those patients who are at increased risk, so that's why we would like to screen that population." The HPV virus can lead to many types of cancer, including cervical, anal, vaginal and penile as well as cancer of the throat.

According to the CDC, each year in the United States, about 17,500 women and 9,300 men get HPV-related cancer that in many instances could have been prevented by vaccination.