Cervical cancer and genital warts are caused by two different types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), for which there are two separate vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil. While Gardasil can be used to prevent infection from HPVs that cause both genital warts and cervical cancer, Cervarix was thought to only protect against infection by HPVs that cause cervical cancer.
According to a recent study, Cervarix was also found to lower the rates of genital warts in female teenagers in England.
The authors of the study noted that while other factors may have affected these rates, the findings suggest that Cervarix may be effective in helping protect against both cervical cancer and genital warts.
"Speak with your doctor about preventive treatment for genital warts."
This study was led by Rebecca Howell-Jones, in the HIV/STI Department at Public Health England in London. The research team examined the relationship between the rates of genital warts in young men and women and the rate of bivalent HPV 16/18 immunizations (Cevarix; used for cervical cancer prevention) during the three years after the vaccine became available in England.
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection caused by HPV type 6 and 11 that lead to bumps around the genital area.
Data was collected from males and females between the ages of 15-24 who attended a group of 121 primary care institutions in the United Kingdom from 2008-2011.
The researchers found that in 2009 the rates of genital warts among both female age groups (15-19 and 20-24) decreased, along with a significant increase in HPV immunizations. The rates continued to decrease in 2010 and 2011 but only in 15- to 19-year-old females.
The rate of genital wart infection slightly decreased in 15- to 19-year-old males from 2008 to 2011. This decline was linked to the increase in HPV immunizations for 15- to 19-year-old females. There was no decrease seen in rates of genital warts diagnoses among 20- to 24-year-old males.
The researchers found a 13 percent reduction in genital warts diagnoses in 16- to 19-year-old females during the study period. The greatest decrease in rates of genital warts during the study period was 21 percent and occurred in 17-year-old females. Immunization coverage was estimated to be at about 64 percent during 2011 for this group.
The study authors concluded that while other factors may play a role in the decline seen in the number of genital warts diagnoses (e.g., improved sexual health education), based on their findings, the HPV 16/18 vaccine (Cervarix) seems to also offer protection against genital warts.
This study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Infectious Disease.
One of the study authors reported a potential conflict of interest with the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline.