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Cancer vaccine study offers hope

Administering cervical cancer vaccines may help prevent abnormal cell changes that are the precursor of tumours, according to a study.

Australian researchers say they have found encouraging results from their assessment of a vaccination programme undertaken in the country between 2007 and 2009.

Under the initiative all females in the 12-26 age group were offered jabs against cervical cancer, which believed to be triggered by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The study found that following the vaccination programme, fewer under-18s developed pre-cancerous changes called high-grade cervical abnormalities (HGAs).

The incidence of HGAs in teenagers after vaccination was lower by a statistically significant 0.38%, compared to before the programme was introduced.

Study leader Dr Julia Brotherton, from Victorian Cytology Service Registries in Melbourne, wrote in The Lancet medical journal: "This is the first report of a decrease in incidence of high-grade cervical abnormalities within three years after implementation of a population-wide HPV vaccination programme."

Kate Broun, Cancer Council Victoria's cancer screening manager, said: "This is encouraging data and a good first indication that the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is effective at preventing cervical cell abnormalities. However this is only suggestive evidence and we really need to see the link with Pap test registers to confirm this."

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