Victoria – British Columbia’s school-based human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization program is dramatically reducing rates of cervical pre-cancer in B.C. women, according to a new study.

“The reports on the 12-year program are positive,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We can save lives through a simple immunization program, and we will. I acknowledge the hard work done by researchers, educators and the health authorities to ensure the success of the program. The dramatic success – pre-cancer rates dropping by over half, shows us the importance of having children immunized early to protect their lives.”

The evaluation of the HPV vaccination program in B.C. was conducted jointly by researchers at BC Cancer, the BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre and the University of British Columbia and highlights the success of the program in reducing pre-cancers. Pre-cancer refers to abnormal cell growth in the cervix most often discovered during routine Pap tests. If not treated, pre-cancer can develop into cervical cancer.

The study found that B.C. women who had received the HPV vaccine as Grade 6 girls had a 57% reduction in the incidence of cervical pre-cancer cells compared to unvaccinated women.

Every year in B.C., approximately:

  • 200 women will get cervical cancer.
  • 50 women will die from the disease.
  • The HPV vaccine is provided free to girls and boys in Grade 6 as part of routine school vaccination programs.
  • One-third of eligible students in B.C. have not been fully immunized against HPV.
  • HPV is the cause of the majority of cervical cancers. HPV is so common that the majority of sexually active women get the virus at some point in their lives.
  • The World Health Organization recently announced that the elimination of cervical cancer is now one of its top priorities.

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