New Cervical Cancer Vaccine Guidelines
American Cancer Society Differs From Other Groups on Vaccinating Women Over 18
WebMD News Archive
Vaccine's Protection continued...
Since the vaccine will not work on those already infected, Einstein says it
was important for ACS to hold back from routinely recommending it in this age
"The recommendation is for women in this age group to talk to their doctor
about whether or not the vaccine can benefit them. But the research does not
justify universally recommending the vaccine," says Einstein.
Stephanie V. Blank, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the NYU Cancer Institute
in New York City, disagrees.
While women aged 19 to 26 may benefit less from the vaccine, the shift away
from routine recommendations is likely to have more of a financial than a
medical advantage, Blank says.
"Giving the vaccine to a woman who has already been exposed is not going to
harm her -- and, in fact, it may help her, since it's unlikely that she would
have been exposed to all four of the cancer-related strains of HPV for which
the vaccine provides protection," says Blank.
Indeed, Blank tells WebMD that as long as a woman knows she needs to follow
up with regular screening Pap tests, whether she has been vaccinated or not,
"Those aged 19 to 26 should also be encouraged to get vaccinated." (All
cervical cancers are not caused by HPV.)
Not for Those Over 26
Currently, there are no HPV vaccine studies on women over age 26. The FDA
has approved Gardasil only for girls and women age 9 to 26.
Also, there is not enough evidence to say whether booster shots will be
needed throughout a woman's life.
NYU's Blank says it's important to note that while most cervical
cancer cancer is related to HPV,
not all HPV infections -- even those caused by strains 16 and 18 -- will result
in cervical cancer.
"Most HPV infections, even potentially carcinogenic ones, resolve or become
undetected in a year or less," says Blank. Many women never even know they were
Moreover, she says, even persistent HPV infections don't always progress to
According to the ACS report, 75% of all low-grade lesions, and up to 90% of
high-grade lesions, resolve without treatment -- and never go on to cause