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HPV vaccination cuts abnormal cervical smears

GPs should see a sharp reduction in abnormal cervical smears after September's introduction of a schools-based HPV vaccination programme, an international study suggests.

Three years after immunisation with Sanofi Pasteur's vaccine, Gardasil, there was a 43% reduction in high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions.

There were also reductions in milder pre-malignant changes in women aged 16-26 years who received the vaccine, according to the findings, from three trials involving 18,000 women.

Women who received the vaccine were 43% less likely than controls to need invasive interventions such as cervical biopsies.

The researchers, from the University of Alabama in the US, said the results suggested thousands of women would be spared the uncertainty, repeated testing and potential surgery associated with abnormal smear test results.

Study leader Dr Warner Huh, a gynaecological oncologist who works at the University, told delegates at the Society of Gynaecological Oncologists annual meeting in Florida that benefits of the vaccine would be apparent soon after its introduction. ‘This is a positive first sign, but it will take many more years to know definitively if the vaccine prevents cancer.'

Some GPs are already offering the vaccine privately but a national programme is due to begin in the UK in Autumn 2008 in 12-13 year olds and a catch up programme is also being planned for those up to age 18.

The Government is due to come to a decision over which vaccine to use - Gardasil or GSK's Cervarix - next month.


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