HPV vaccine offers protection from anal cancer

VACCINES now given to women to prevent cervical cancer appear to also offer strong protection against anal cancer.

US researchers studied more than 4200 young Costa Rican women, who were randomised to receive either the bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix, GSK) or a hepatitis A vaccine as a control.

The HPV vaccine offers  protection against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer and around 80% of anal cancers.

Although anal cancers remain rare in the general population, women have twice the incidence compared to men, and overall rates are rising, the researchers said.

After four years, 62% of the cohort receiving three doses of the HPV vaccine showed no sign of anal HPV infection, while 77% had no cervical HPV infection.

Among those women who had no previous exposure to HPV, the vaccine prevented anal HPV infection in almost 84%, close to its efficacy against cervical infection of almost 89