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New cervical cancer test hailed

An expert has claimed that cervical cancer should become a "rare disease" thanks to a new vaccine.

Professor Peter Sasieni, from Queen Mary, University of London, described how the Cervarix jab could bring the disease under control.

He said girls who are given the jab at 12 or 13 would only need further screening for cervical cancer when they are 30 and 45.

The jab safeguards against the sexually-transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for the development of the disease in most cases.

Prof Sasieni sees HPV testing as a potential replacement for the current smear test programme, which has women screened every three to five years.

The HPV test protects against 13 strains of the disease, accounting for virtually every case of cervical cancer.

It typically takes over 10 years for a cancer to develop after HPV infection. Research shows that cancer caused by HPV types not prevented by the current vaccines take even longer.

"If you don't have one of these 13 types of HPV then your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next 10 years is really incredibly low," Prof Sasieni said.

"You would capture virtually everybody with HPV testing. Vaccinated women would only need to be screened when they are 30 and 45."

Prof Sasieni said around 100,000 women should continue to be screened more regularly to ensure the vaccine continues to work for a lifetime.

Current data suggest this would be the case, he said.

In the UK, from September 2008 to July 2010, at least four million doses of the Cervarix jab were given.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Queen Mary, University of London