Australia continues to lead the way in cervical cancer elimination

Ange Steele, Nurse Coordinator of the Women's Dysplasia Clinic
1 November 2023 |

A research study has provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of Australia’s cervical screening program.

The study involved analysing data from more than 3 million Australian women under the age of 40 who have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus virus (HPV) types 16 and 18, which are known to be risk factors for cervical cancer.

Lead Researcher Mr David Wrede, Consultant Gynaecologist and Lead for Dysplasia at the Women’s, said the aim of the study was to assess the impact of the Australian cervical screening program following the introduction of HPV testing and the vaccination program.

“Australia is leading the world in the elimination of cervical cancer,” Mr Wrede said. “Once a change to a screening program is implemented it is essential that the impact of this change is measured scientifically.”

The research found that women who have received the HPV vaccine had significantly lower rates of HPV, compared with women who have not been vaccinated.

Importantly, the research highlighted that women with low‑risk HPV types (non‑ HPV 16/18) could have three consecutive non‑HPV 16/18 tests before being referred for further investigation, without increasing their risk of developing a high‑grade abnormality.

This finding has a major impact on the delivery of service, meaning women most at risk can be prioritised for colposcopy services.

The research results support the benefits of HPV vaccination and the use of primary HPV testing in identifying women at risk of cervical cancer. They also contribute to Australia’s ongoing efforts in the elimination of cervical cancer and serve as a testament to the importance of evidence‑based research in shaping public health policies and practices worldwide.

This research was published in the British Medical Journal.