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A new study from Finland shows that a vaccine (Gardasil) developed to prevent cervical cancer could also prevent cancers of the vagina and vulva associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus linked to cervical cancer. According to Jorma Paavonen, MD, Professor and Chief Physician, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Helsinki, and the study's lead author, HPV is present in 80% of the 6,000 cases of vaginal and vulvar cancers diagnosed in the United States each year.
The study combined data from three clinical trials evaluating the HPV vaccine in 18,150 women from North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The women in the study received up to three doses of the vaccine or a placebo (inactive vaccine) over a six-month period starting in 2002 and were followed for two years. None of the women who received the vaccine developed HPV-related vaginal or vulvar precancers, compared with 24 women who received the placebo.
What This Means For Patients
"This study shows that the HPV vaccine may be similarly effective in preventing vaginal and vulvar cancers as it is for cervical cancer," said Dr. Paavonen. "Since treating these precancers is challenging, this vaccine could help lower the number of new cases of vaginal and vulvar cancers."