Vaccinations

Why is the HPV cervical cancer vaccine needed?

The HPV vaccine protects against two types of HPV virus  (HPV-16 and HPV-18) which together are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers.

In addition, the HPV vaccine can also protect against HPV-6 and HPV-11, the two strains of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts

How HPV causes cervical cancer

If you become infected with one of the high-risk strains of HPV, and your immune system does not deal with it, the infection can lead to the growth of pre-cancerous cells in your cervix. This is known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).

CIN is not cancer but, if left untreated, it can develop into cancer in some women. This can take up to 10 years.

Why cervical screening is important

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, so it is not guaranteed to prevent cervical cancer.

This is why regular cervical screening continues to play an important role in detecting potentially cancerous cell changes in the cervix.

Protecting against other health conditions

While the Gardasil vaccine protects against genital warts, it does not:

  • treat an HPV infection already present
  • protect against illnesses or conditions, including cancers, not caused by infection with HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16 or HPV-18
  • protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using condoms offers the best protection against STIs

Page last reviewed: 13/08/2012

Next review due: 13/08/2014

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Cervical cancer vaccination

A group of teenage girls and a GP explain how the HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of cervical cancer. The Gardasil vaccine is used in the national vaccination programme.

Media last reviewed: 16/01/2012

Next review due: 16/01/2014

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