Women who have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) are neglecting their 2-yearly Pap smears at higher rates than unvaccinated women, jeopardizing benefits of the vaccine, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Associate Professor Marion Saville, from the Victorian Cytology Service, and her coauthors found that participation in cervical screening during the period 2010-2011 was significantly lower in 25 – 29-year-old vaccinated women compared with their unvaccinated peers (45.2% v 58.7%).
Over the same period, only 37.6% of vaccinated women aged 20 – 24 years were screened compared with 47.7% of unvaccinated women of the same age, the researchers also found.
The three-dose quadrivalent vaccine used in the national HPV vaccination program protects against the two HPV types which cause 70% – 80% of cervical cancer, but it does not provide universal protection, nor does it protect women who acquired HPV before vaccination, making continued screening critical. Despite the fact that most young women know that Pap tests are still needed after vaccination, “our study suggests that this knowledge has not translated into action”, A/Prof Saville and her coauthors wrote.
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