Study finds new screening program to almost halve cervical cancer in Australia

Doug Hendrie

18/04/2018 2:10:32 PM

Australia’s new National Cervical Screening Program will almost halve rates of cervical cancer by 2035, a new study predicts.

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The Cancer Council NSW study estimates Australia’s new cervical screening program will save up to 587 women’s lives by 2035.

A new Cancer Council NSW study – Projected future impact of HPV vaccination and primary HPV screening on cervical cancer rates from 2017–2035: Example from Australia – has found that up to 587 women’s lives will be saved and 2000 invasive cervical cancer cases prevented by 2035 due to the National Cervical Screening Program’s new human papilloma virus (HPV) test.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. The shift from a two-yearly Pap smear to a five-yearly HPV screen allows better detection of the virus responsible for 99% of all cervical cancers and the most common sexually transmissible infection (STI).
The Cancer Council researchers found that the improved test would lead to a three-year spike in detection of HPV and cervical cancer, due to better detection.
‘This phenomenon [will be due] to increased prevalent disease detection,’ they state.
Cervical cancer rates are then predicted to fall by up to 51% by 2035.
The new cervical cancer screening test relies on the fact that it takes a decade or more for HPV to cause cancer. The screening method still requires a sample of cells to be collected from the cervix. Women who have had the HPV vaccination should still undergo screening, as the vaccine covers most but not all strains of the virus.
A 2017 study predicted the new screening regime would lead to reductions in cumulative lifetime risk for cervical cancers of 33% for unvaccinated and 22% for vaccinated women.
Australia is a world leader in tackling cervical cancer, rolling out the first HPV vaccination program in 2007. HPV vaccination has already led to precipitous drops in new infections of up to 90%.
New Australian research has revealed a major decline in vaccine-targeted HPV rates in women aged up to 24, with infection with types 6, 11, 16 and 18 plummeting from 24% to just 1% over the last decade. The decline follows Australia’s implementation of a national HPV immunisation program with the quadrivalent HPV vaccine for females in 2007, with boys vaccinated from 2013. Australia is now using the nonavalent HPV vaccine, which has extended protection to a further five cancer-causing types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).

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