A new study suggests that the newest human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine could prevent 80 percent of cervical cancer cases in the US if given to children before they turn 12.
The research suggests that the vaccine - called 9-Valent, for its ability to protect against nine different HPV strains - also has the potential to protect against 19,000 other cancers, including anal, penile cancers. This represents an 11 percent increase in protection compared to the earlier HPV vaccines.
To work this out, researchers from the US Centres for Disease Control and the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in the US examined HPV DNA tissue samples taken from 2,670 cancer patients between 1993 and 2005. They were trying to work out how many cancer cases in the US are typically caused by the nine HPV strains the new vaccine prevents.
"This is the first comprehensive study of its kind and shows the potential to not only reduce the global cancer burden, but guide clinical decision-making with regard to childhood vaccinations," Marc T. Goodman, senior author of the study and director of Cancer Prevention and Genetics at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in the US, said in a press release.
The study also found that the vaccine can protect against 5.7 percent of oropharyngeal cancers, which are found at the base of the tongue and tonsils, and are the second most common cancers associated with HPV.
"We found that 70 percent of patient DNA tissue samples with cancer of the oropharynx harboured HPV," added Goodman. "This is a much higher percentage of HPV than observed in other studies, likely because of changes in sexual behaviours, such as increased oral-genital contact." The results have been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
But don't worry if you've already been vaccinated with one of the previous HPV vaccines, Gardasil or Cervarix. The research also showed that these earlier vaccines did a great job of preventing a range of cancers on their own, and the new 9-Valent vaccine only offers an 11 percent increase in protection.
Still, the broader protection we have against these cancers, the better.