HPV vaccine helps protect women from anal cancer by preventing 84% of HPV infections in this area, according to research published in the Lancet.
Although the number of patients who get anal cancer remains low, at least three-quarters of anal cancers are caused by high risk HPV infections of type 16 and 18.
Currently, girls aged between 12 and 13 in the UK receive a HPV vaccination to reduce the chance of developing cervical cancer caused by high risk HPV infections.
Over four thousand healthy women took part in the study, half of which were given HPV vaccine, Cervarix, the same that is used in the UK HPV vaccinations programme.
After four years all were tested for anal and cervical HPV infections. Overall, 62% were protected from anal infection, but in those with likely no prior exposure to HPV the protection rate increased to 84%.
They also found that cervical infections were prevented in 77% of the women, and in 89% of those with no prior exposure to the virus.
Dr Aimée Kreimer of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, USA, who led the study concluded: ‘HPV vaccines have great potential for prevention of a large proportion of HPV-associated cancers at the anus and other anatomical sites, assuming adequate duration of protection.’
‘In women, published evidence exists for vaccine efficacy against HPV 16 and HPV 18 infections at the cervix, vagina, vulva, and now anus.’
‘Since our data show a reduction of anal HPV infection rates among vaccinated women, it suggests that in the future, women who receive the prophylactic HPV vaccines before exposure to the virus will likely have less anal cancer.’