HPV vaccine may protect against genital warts

The results of a four-year study released on July 20 by the British Medical Journal show that vaccination against certain types of human papillomavirus gives protection against genital warts and pre-cancerous growths of the cervix.

The quadrivalent HPV vaccine was found to be efficacious against HPV types six, 11, 16 and 18. In these types, the vaccine prohibited approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

The vaccine is considered effective against certain low-grade cervical growths as well, but to what extent is still uncertain. Women previously unexposed to HPV showed a high degree of protection against low-grade lesions, from 96 to 100 percent. The vaccination is effective for four years.

Over 17,000 women from primary care centers and university affiliated healthcare centers in 24 countries were enrolled in two studies in 2001 and 2003. Their ages ranged from 16 to 26 years, the British Medical Journal reports. The women were divided randomly into two groups, with one administered three doses of the vaccine in a six month period, while the other group was given a placebo.

HPV is thought to be responsible for 30 million annual cases of anogenital warts or cervical growths. It also causes half a million cases of cervical cancer annually and 10 million pre-malignant growths.