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The New Shot That Could Defeat Cervical Cancer

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Could a new vaccine make cervical cancer a worry of the past? A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention points toward yes.

Recently, researchers analyzed the results of 12,514 women, ages 15 to 45, who took placebos in three different Gardasil trials back when the vaccine was being tested—i.e. these people weren't being protected from HPV. (Currently, Gardasil is your best defense against HPV, protecting against strands six, 11, 16, and 18. The two latter strands are responsible for the majority of cancers, while types six and 11 cause an estimated 90 percent of genital warts cases.) 

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Researchers hypothesized that more strands could be harmful than just those four—and sought to test that out. The results? Among the sample group of women, 2,507 people were diagnosed with HPV—and after running an analysis on the cervicovaginal swabs, researchers were able to detect 14 different HPV types. “Approximately 85 percent or more of precancerous lesions of the cervix are attributed to nine of those types (specifically strands six, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58),” explains Elmar A. Joura, M.D., lead study author and an associate professor of gynecology at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.

What that means: If a prophylactic nine-valent vaccine was effectively implemented, it could almost eliminate cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers in long term, explains Joura. The good news: Because of this research, relief is closer than you realize. “The clinical trials for the nine-valent vaccine started in 2009 and are now under review by the FDA,” says Joura. “Approval is expected by the end of this year and hopefully the vaccine will be available to the public soon after.”

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