About 20 million Americans are currently infected with Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. Five and half million people will contract the sexually transmitted virus this year. HPV is a precursor for cervical cancer and genital warts. However, a new vaccine has been shown to fully prevent cervical cancer in young women.
The study included 12,000 women from 13 countries aged 16 to 26. None of the women who were given the vaccine developed pre-cancerous growths over the two- year period.
Dr. Carol Brown, from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, explains how the vaccine works. "What the vaccine is doing is getting the immune system, just like you get vaccinated against tetanus or polio, to recognize this virus as a foreign invader. The immune system will shut it down."
The vaccine aims to target young girls aged 10 to 13 who are not yet sexually active, a relief for one mother who says, "It would be wonderful. It's one less potential crisis that my daughter can avert."
Although HPV does not always lead to cervical cancer, it does trigger 70 percent of cancer cases. Merck, the manufacturer of the vaccine, Gardasil, plans on submitting a request to the Food and Drug Administration. If approved, the vaccine could be available as early as 2006.