Cervical cancer vaccine approval 'very exciting'

In collaboration with the Press Association

A vaccine which protects against the sexually transmitted infections that cause most cases of cervical cancers has received approval for use in the EU.

The Department of Health's regulators will now consider the drug for use in the NHS.

The vaccine, known as Gardasil, is one of two medications being brought to the market and protects against certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Around 80 per cent of sexually active women will experience a HPV infection in the course of their lives. THe vast majority of infections are relatively harmless but they can occassionally lead to cancer.

"The advent of a vaccine against HPV is a very exciting development in cancer prevention," said Cancer Research UK's chief executive professor Alex Markham.

"HPV vaccination holds the potential to prevent the majority of cervical cancer cases in the UK.

"Cervical cancer is a big problem globally. One in ten female cancers diagnosed worldwide are cancers of the cervix and it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Southern Africa, Central America and Asia.

"The current vaccines do not prevent all cancer-related HPV strains. But studies have shown that they are up to 100 per cent effective against the targeted HPV strains (strains 16 and 18), and as a result they have the potential to prevent around 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

"This announcement means that women will soon be able to buy the vaccine if they choose to do so. But we don't yet know if vaccination will be available through a national vaccination programme.

"If a national vaccination programme is introduced it will be vital that women continue to attend for cervical smears.

"We don't yet know if the vaccines are effective in women who may already have been infected with HPV, nor how long the immunity given by the vaccines lasts. We must also remember that the vaccine will not prevent all cervical cancer cases." The vaccine is estimated to have the potential to prevent around 3,000 cervical cancer cases every year in the UK..

Find out more about cervical cancer vaccines on CancerHelp UK