The World Could Soon Be Cervical Cancer-Free

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Cervical cancer is one of the world’s most common types of cancer – it’s still the fourth most common in people with cervixes.

But it’s also one of the most preventable – the World Health Organisation has predicted that it could actually be eliminated by 2030.

It turns out, the HPV vaccine could be the ticket to stamping out cervical cancer for good, after a new study found that the vaccine reduces the chance of developing it by 87%.

What Is HPV & Cervical Cancer?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV – the human papillomavirus.

It’s a common sexually transmitted infection that’s spread through intimate contact with genital skin, and it can infect anyone.

It usually has no symptoms and goes away naturally, but in serious cases it can lead to cervical cancer, which is where abnormal cells grow in the lining of the cervix.

But HPV is preventable, and a new study has shown that we can dramatically reduce how much these serious cases occur.

HPV Vaccination

The UK have an HPV vaccination programme in 12 to 13-year olds.

Researchers have found that the HPV vaccine prevented around 450 people developing cervical cancers, and about 17,200 people developing pre-cancer in the UK in 2019.

That’s a reduction of 87% in the women who were jabbed.

The study started back in 2008 and is being described as “historic”, because it confirms that the HPV vaccine does in fact save lives.

In news closer to home, the newly-named Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer has just been launched in Melbourne.

It’s going to be Australia’s leading organisation for cervical cancer prevention, and wants to totally eliminate it both here in Australia and across the Indo-Pacific.

Cancer Council Australia estimates that there will be around 900 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Australia this year.

But that number is significantly lower thanks to the HPV vaccine and the amazing technology of cervical screening.

The HPV vaccine was developed back in 1990, by our very own Australian Immunologist Ian Frazer, along with Chinese virologist Jian Zhou.

And Since 2007, Australia’s National Immunisation Program has distributed the vaccine for all males and females aged 12 to 13 at high-schools across the country.

That’s the age when the vaccine is most effective – before teenagers are likely exposed to the virus through sexual contact.

And since 1991, Australia’s National Cervical Screening Program – which involves a pap smear – has halved the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer.

Pap smears are the key to early detection, even for pre-cancer cells, and are recommended between the ages of 25 to 74 every five years.

Indigenous Australians are still four times more likely to die from cervical cancer than other Australian women, though.

And that’s because of limited access to cervical cancer screening in remote Indigenous areas.

Worldwide in 2018, 90% of all deaths from cervical cancer were in low to middle income countries, where cervical cancer screening is still limited.

The Plan Moving Ahead

Last November, the WHO launched a global strategy – known as the 90-70-90 targets – to make sure everyone is given the same preventative measures.

It’s urged countries to have 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by the age of 15, 70% of women screened using high-performance test by the age of 35, and 90% of women who have identified with cervical disease to be able to receive treatment.

WHO Director: “The idea of eliminating any cancer was once considered a pipe dream. We now have the evidence and the tools to show it can be done”.