Australia set to 'eliminate' cervical cancer by 2028

The Cotman Centre at the Norwich Research Park where cervical smear samples are tested

The Cotman Centre at the Norwich Research Park where cervical smear samples are tested

They predict that less than six in 100,000 women will contract cervical cancer by 2022, with that number set to drop further by 2035, to just four in 100,000.

But this is all contingent on Australia's high vaccination coverage and screening being maintained, write the study authors. By 2100 there would be just three deaths per million women (compared to 21 deaths per million, or about 260 deaths each year today).

The latest study also highlighted the importance of continuing the cervical screening regime in Australia, which recently saw the biennial pap smear replaced by HPV screening every five years.

More than 310,000 women die each year from cervical cancer globally.

However, they warned "elimination is only likely if HPV vaccination and screening continue at their current rates".

In 2007, Australia launched a national publicly-funded school immunisation programme for the Gardasil vaccine to tackle the human papillomavirus (HPV).

A new test which will look for the cancer-causing HPV virus straight away rather than for abnormal cells in the cervix will be rolled out across the whole of England in 2019.

The new modelling was published by the Cancer Council New South Wales (NSW), a charity, in The Lancet Public Health Journal on Wednesday.

"There are constant advancements in cervical cancer prevention and Australia has been ahead of the United Kingdom in adopting many of them, this means they are well and truly on the path to eliminating cervical cancer", said Robert Music, Chief Director of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust in the UK.

The study's authors credited it to the country's screening programs and its national HPV vaccine. "Our research has shown that elimination is firmly on the horizon in the United Kingdom with deaths nearly disappearing among vaccinated generations by 2040".

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Music added that progress is also being seen in the UK.

HPV is the name given to a common group of viruses: There are more than 100 types of HPV.

Researchers have estimated that the switch to the new test, conducted only every five years, will reduce cancer rates by at least 20%.

Now research from Cancer Council NSW argues the most dramatic improvements are still to come, as the first recipients of the early HPV vaccination program begin to reach their mid thirties.

The incidence of cervical cancer in Australia now stands at seven cases per 100,000, about half the global average.

If high-risk HPV is not found in a woman's sample then the risk of her developing cervical cancer will be minimal.

"Access to models and high-quality data are key in enabling countries to plan and effectively monitor health problems generally, and in tailoring preventative actions that one day will lead to the global elimination of cervical cancer as a major public health problem".

"We should look to follow their example and introduce new technologies as soon as possible, this includes HPV primary screening, self-sampling as part of the cervical screening programme and vaccinating boys for HPV".

Earlier this year, World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the global community to act against cervical cancer, one of the "most preventable forms of cancer as long as it is detected early and managed effectively".

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