The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine dramatically reduces cervical cancer rates by almost 90%, according to a study published in The Lancet.
The researchers, based at King's College London, compared women in their 20s who had the vaccine at age 12 to 13 compared to unvaccinated women, and found cervical cancer rates were 87 percent lower in those who received the vaccine.
In women who received the vaccine aged 14 to 16, cancer rates were 62 percent lower, while cancer rates were 34 percent lower in women aged 16 to 18.
"To see the real-life impact of the vaccine has been truly rewarding"
With these results, the researchers estimate that the HPV vaccination programme prevented around 450 cervical cancers and around 17,200 cases of pre-cancers during an 11-year period.
Professor Peter Sasieni, lead author of the study, said: “It’s been incredible to see the impact of HPV vaccination, and now we can prove it prevented hundreds of women from developing cancer in England.
"We’ve known for many years that HPV vaccination is very effective in preventing particular strains of the virus, but to see the real-life impact of the vaccine has been truly rewarding."
Hope that the vaccine could almost eliminate the disease
The vaccine works by protecting against the main cancer-causing strains of the virus - HPV 16 and 18 - preventing abnormal changes in cervical cells.
Since almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, experts hope the vaccine programme could almost eliminate cervical cancer.
The results provide a great deal of hope for low and middle income countries where there is little access to cervical cancer screening.
The chance to save many lives
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive said: “It’s a historic moment to see the first study showing that the HPV vaccine has and will continue to protect thousands of women from developing cervical cancer.
“Cancer Research UK has been funding research in this area for many years and we’ve been eagerly awaiting these results since the introduction of the vaccination programme. Around 850 women die from cervical cancer each year in the UK, so we have the chance to save many lives.”