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Data widens on HPV vaccine

Vaccination against HPV appears to protect women against anogenital and vaginal cancers as well as cervical cancer, a study reveals.

The research also gives the first indication that vaccination may be useful in women who are sexually active as well as in young girls.Some GP have begun to give vaccines to women who ask for it, and experts said the new data suggested the practice was unlikely to be harmful and could be beneficial.In women who had no previous signs of infection, two trials of Gardasil showed the vaccine to be 100% effective in anogenital, vaginal and cervical lesions associated with vaccine HPV subtypes.The researchers, whose study was published in New England Journal of Medicine last week, also widened the analysis to include women with HPV infection.After the second year of follow-up, the incidence in the vaccine group appeared to reach a plateau as cases of disease resulting from prevalent infection were no longer detected and the incidence of new infections was reduced.The researchers, from the international Future II study group, did not claim their results offered clear evidence that vaccination altered the course of the disease in prior infection.But Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, said: 'There was a suggestion that it was the case but the numbers, which were published on the Merck website, were too small to come to any firm conclusion.'The reasonable thing to say is that in women who are sexually active, the vaccine doesn't appear to do them any harm.'

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