The latest news from October - December 2020, concerning human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer risk, study finds.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that the HPV vaccine is strongly associated with a reduced risk of cervical cancer. Researchers from the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden followed the national health data of almost 2 million people between 2006 and 2017, looking at factors like HPV vaccination status, cervical cancer risk, age, household income, and more.
The subjects were evaluated until their 31st birthday. The results showed that HPV vaccination before the age of 17 reduced cervical cancer risk by 88% when compared to not receiving the vaccine. People vaccinated between 17 and 30 reduce their cervical cancer risk by half.
The landmark study is important as, though previous studies have shown the HPV vaccine to be effective against HPV-caused genital warts and precancerous cervical lesions, it shows the HPV vaccine is effective against cervical cancer, too. The data supports the continuation and expansion of worldwide HPV vaccination programs.
A cervical cancer-free future: First-ever global commitment to eliminate a cancer
In November, the WHO launched their Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. The strategy focuses on three key areas for tackling cervical cancer: vaccination, screening, and treatment. It is estimated that, should it go to plan, cervical cancer cases could be reduced by 40%, and 5 million deaths prevented. 194 countries have come together to commit to the goal of eliminating this cancer. Several targets have been set, to be met by 2030. They are: vaccinating 90% of girls against HPV by the age of 15, screening 70% of women by 35 and again by 45, and treating 90% of women with a cervical disease (pre cancer or invasive cancer). Cervical cancer is a preventable disease, which is also curable if detected early. However, in low- and middle-income countries it is one of the biggest threats to women, with an incidence twice as high as in high-income countries. It is hoped that the WHO’s commitment to eradicating cervical cancer will extend to other HPV-cancers in time.
Viral Protection: Achieving the Possible. A Four Step Plan for Eliminating HPV Cancers in Europe
In October, the HPV Action Network, part of the European Cancer Organisation, made a call to action to prevent HPV cancers in the EU and WHO European Region. The report, which benefited from the input of many organisations and individuals around the world, details a four step plan to eliminate all HPV cancers and diseases caused by HPV. The steps in the plan to achieve this goal are universal HPV vaccination for adolescents, national cervical screening using HPV testing systems, cancer treatments and support that maximise quality of life, and campaigns to improve public awareness about HPV. The plan, in conjunction with Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the WHO strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer, presents an excellent opportunity to make progress in the fight against HPV and HPV-related cancers.
Anal cancer on the rise in people older than 50
Between 2001 and 2016, rates of anal cancer in women and people over than 50 are rising. A study by a team at Augusta University followed the National Program of Cancer Registries to find and analyse anal cancer cases in a 15 year period. They found that over 80% of cases were in those over 50, and 62.5% of cases were in women. As well as this, there was an annual increase of 2.8% for cases in those over 50, which was not mirrored in younger groups. Women in this age group were more at risk than men, with an annual increase of 3.3% (compared to 2.1% in men). While anyone is at risk for anal cancer, the researchers conclude that there is increasing anal cancer concern for women and those over fifty. 90% of anal cancers are caused by HPV, which is preventable with the HPV vaccine. In the USA, over 50% of adults are not vaccinated against HPV.