Progress towards the international elimination of cervical cancer

1 November 2023 |

Incredible progress has been made to reduce the incidence of human papillomaviruses (HPV) and related diseases across the world, thanks to HPV vaccination programs and cervical screening programs.

However, reducing the incidence of HPV – which is the cause of cervical cancer – remains a significant global priority.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched an initiative to eliminate cervical cancer within generations, with the goal of making cervical cancer a rare disease, affecting less than 4 out of every 100,000 women per year.

To see how well HPV vaccination programs are working in real world settings, an international team conducted a systematic review of studies from around the world.

Lead Senior Researcher Professor Suzanne Garland, from the Women’s, is also the President of the International Papillomavirus Society and a regular advisor to the WHO.

“A concerted global effort to improve worldwide vaccination rates is needed, as recent WHO data indicates that only 13 per cent of young girls eligible for vaccination worldwide have completed the vaccine series,” Prof Garland said.

The international team looked into how vaccination affects rates of HPV infection at different sites on the body and the incidence of HPV-related diseases.

The research involved reviewing observational studies on HPV vaccination globally from 2016 to 2020, involving 14 years of follow-up data, and 138 peer-reviewed publications.

The review found HPV vaccination programs worldwide have had a significant impact in reducing HPV infections and HPV-related disease outcomes, including precancers and cervical cancers.

These results were seen in countries with high coverage of vaccination (such as Australia) where a majority of vaccinations occur when people are in their teenage years and have not yet been infected with HPV. 

This research was published in the Expert Review of Vaccines.