HPV vaccines and changes in cancer screening are having positive impacts, with a recent study finding decreased rates of high-grade cervical lesions in young women.
The study, published online June 22 in the journal CANCER found rates of high-grade cervical lesions decreased in U.S. women ages 18 to 21 after vaccines were made available to protect against human papilloma virus. Women ages 21 to 24 also were protected, but to a lesser extent, according to the study.
Participants in the study included women ages 18 to 39 who were diagnosed between January 2008 and December 2012 with adenocarcinoma in situ (CIN2+) — asymptomatic lesions that can, over decades, progress to invasive cervical cancer if they are left untreated, the study said.
CIN2+ can be detected only through routine cervical cancer screening, researchers noted, making them speculate that changes to screening methods could help reduce CIN2+ rates.
The majority of CIN2+ diagnoses — 59.2% — occurred in women ages 21 to 29, with 18- to 20-year-olds representing only 4.6% of all reported cases, the study stated.
Among participants whose race/ethnicity were known, researchers found 61% were non-Hispanic white, 14.7% were black, 15.9% were Hispanic and 4.8% were Asian. A majority of participants had insurance and 3.5% said they had no insurance, according to the study.
The research team was led by Susan Hariri, PhD, MPH, of the CDC. “In particular, screening is no longer recommended in women before age 21 years, and we found substantial declines in screening in 18 to 20 year olds that were consistent with the new recommendations,” Hariri said in a news release. “We think that the decreases in high-grade lesions in this group reflect changes in screening, but also may be partially due to HPV vaccination.”
Still, Hariri thinks the positive effects of the HPV vaccine, which include reducing rates of cervical cancer and other HPV-linked cancers, will take many years to examine because of a long lag time between HPV infection and cancer development, according to the release. “To our knowledge, this is the first examination of trends in CIN2+diagnosis in multiple populations of U.S. women in the new era of cervical cancer prevention,” researchers concluded. “Importantly, our data illustrate the challenges in assessing HPV vaccine impact on cervical precancers in the United States and emphasize the importance of additional information such as the types of HPV detected in these lesions to assist in this determination.”
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