Though the HPV vaccination cannot prevent the development of pre-cancerous factors in women who are already infected with HPV, which stands for human papillomavirus, it can reduce the likelihood of getting the disease again, according to a recent industry-funded study.
"Young women should ask their doctor about the HPV vaccine."
Women who had received the HPV shot despite having a disease related to HPV were still less likely to get another HPV-related infection following treatment than women who did not get the shot.
In a study led by Elmar Joura, an associate professor at the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Austria's Medical University of Vienna, researchers followed up with the women who had participated in the clinical trials for the vaccine.
They looked at the data of 1,350 women, who were between the ages of 15 and 26 between 2001 and 2003, from 24 different countries, both developed and developing.
All the women had received either the three-shot sequence of the HPV vaccine or else a placebo during a randomized clinical trial for the vaccine and then, later, either had cervical surgery or else received a diagnosis for an HPV-related gynecological disease.
A woman who is infected with a strain of HPV and still receives the HPV shot, which only protects against a handful of HPV strains, is still at risk for developing the pre-cancerous lesions that can go on to cause cervical cancer.
A little over six percent of the 587 women who received the HPV shot and needed cervical surgery were re-infected with an HPV-related disease later. But twice this percentage among the 763 women who got the placebo shot were re-infected.
The researchers therefore calculated that the women receiving the actual vaccine were about 46 percent less likely to be re-infected, and they were 65 percent less likely to experience any "high grade" cervical disease.
Those women who had vaginal or vulvar disease following the trials were a third less likely to get an HPV disease after being diagnosed and treated for their initial condition.
The researchers therefore concluded that "previous vaccination with quadrivalent HPV vaccine among women who had surgical treatment for HPV-related disease significantly reduced the incidence of subsequent HPV-related disease, including high-grade disease."
The research appeared March 27 in the journal BMJ. It was funded by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Whitehouse Station. Several of the authors have received funding, advisory board fees or similar professional compensation from vaccine manufacturers.