Cervical cancer could be effectively eliminated in Australia within the next four decades, medical experts say, after new data revealed infection rates had plummeted to just 1 per cent in young women.
Research published by the International Papillomavirus Society, lead by doctors in Melbourne, showed a dramatic decline in the rate of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in women aged up to 24.
The data revealed infection had fallen from 24 per cent to just 1 per cent in that age group in the last decade.
Researchers said the decline was due to the roll-out of the national immunisation program for boys and girls, which began in 2007.
Professor Suzanne Garland, the director of the Centre for Women’s Infectious Diseases at the Royal Women’s Hospital, said she expected the number of cases each year would drop from about 1,000, to just a few, thanks to the vaccination and the new DNA screening test.
“That’s contingent on a high coverage of vaccine. Australia is really in the lead here, [there’s been] really good coverage through the school-based free vaccine program.
“For example, the genital warts the vaccine protects against, already we’ve seen a reduction of over 90 per cent — that’s huge.”
Cervical cancer is caused by HPV infection, which can lead to the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix.