Scientific leaders signal major breakthroughs in elimination of cervical and anal cancers


GENEVA: To mark International HPV Awareness Day March 4th 2022, the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) has warmly welcomed two major advances in the elimination of cervical and anal cancers.

Vaccinating boys and girls can help us eliminate HPV and related cancers within one generation
Vaccinating boys and girls can help us eliminate HPV and related cancers within one generation

HPV (human papillomavirus) is associated with 630,000 cancer diagnoses around the world. Almost all cases of cervical and anal cancers are caused by HPV.  These cancers lead to 470,000 deaths, over 300,000 of which are due to cervical cancer.  Current tools for the prevention of HPV-related cancers are: vaccination for girls and boys; cervical screening and the treatment of cervical pre-cancers in women.

Vaccination of young adolescents with two vaccine doses has been the recommended standard of care for several years. However, the UK Government’s Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunization has just issued interim advice recommending a shift to a single dose schedule.

The proposed change has been warmly welcomed by IPVS President Prof Suzanne Garland, who said, “The evidence that a single dose vaccine schedule for HPV offers a high degree of protection against the types of HPV that cause cancer is now clear. The benefits of this, in terms of logistics, workforce and costs represent a potential game-changer, particularly for low- and middle-income countries. One less jab and the elimination of cervical cancer within a generation would really mean one less worry for the world.”

Another significant recent breakthrough in the prevention of HPV-related cancer is the ANCHOR study into anal cancer prevention which has found that pre-cancerous changes in the anus can be treated to halt progression of anal cancer in a similar way to cervical cancer. Over 50,000 people are diagnosed with anal cancer each year.

Trial lead Dr Joel Palefsky said, “Almost all cases of cervical and anal cancer are caused by HPV and while vaccination provides a first line of defense, for many people who either missed out on vaccination, or who simply aren’t covered by local vaccination policies, there has been no effective tool to prevent anal cancer.  It is exciting that, for the first time, we have clear evidence of an approach that could reduce anal cancer for both men and women.”  Dr Palefsky and his team will be working with various professional organizations to translate these results into standard of care guidelines where possible.

Notes to Editors

  1. International Papillomavirus Society: IPVS is the only organization dedicated to support of research and public health initiatives related to papillomaviruses IPVS – Who We Are (
  2. International HPV Awareness Day: On March 4th around 120 organisations deliver events and activities to raise awareness of HPV. Find out more about the One Less Worry Campaign at
  3. Sources
    1. COVID-19 and cervical cancer – A pandemic’s impact and a global response 
    2. Sharp Declines in Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening 
    3. Single Dose of HPV Vaccine Yields Long-Term Protection from Many Cancer-Causing Types 
    4. JCVI interim advice on a one-dose schedule for the routine HPV immunisation programme 
    5. Treating Anal Cancer Precursor Lesions Reduces Cancer Risk for People With HIV

Cervical screening detects HPV-related cancers and precancers, making effective treatment possibleSpokespeople

Professor Suzanne Garland, IPVS President, Professor of Reproductive & Neonatal Infectious Diseases, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Director of the Women’s Centre for Infectious Diseases in Melbourne. Regular advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on sexual and reproductive health, cervical cancer and HPV. 

Dr. Joel Palefsky, founder and chairperson of the IPVS International HPV Awareness Day campaign. Leading expert on HPV infection, specialising in the impact of HPV on men and those living with HIV, and reducing the risk of anal cancer.

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