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HPV Vaccine: Early Evidence of Impact

Dramatic Drop in Precancerous Cervical Lesions Seen in Australian Teens

Just 27% of U.S. Teens Fully Vaccinated continued...

But another aspect of Australia’s program -- screening teens for cancerous or precancerous lesions -- remains controversial.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends cervical cancer screening begin at age 21, and in many European countries screening is not recommended until age 25.

In Australia, screening begins at age 18, which could potentially lead to unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment to destroy high-grade cervical lesions, Saraiya says.

Cervical cancer is rare in very young women, and most women with genital HPV clear the infection on their own without treatment, which is why many medical organizations recommend against screening before age 21.

In an editorial also appearing in The Lancet, Saraiya writes that conclusive evidence that the HPV vaccine reduces cervical cancers will take several decades.

“The not-so-cautious optimist in us wants to hail this early finding as true evidence of vaccine effect,” she writes, adding that studies under way should increase understanding of the vaccine’s effectiveness against cervical disease.

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