Vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) is “safe and indispensable for eliminating cervical cancer,” health officials stated on Monday for World Cancer Day, denouncing “rumors” on an alleged harmfulness of the vaccines.
“Unfounded rumors hinder increased immunization, which is crucial in the prevention of cervical cancer,” said Elisabete Weiderpass, director of the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Some 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer have been diagnosed worldwide in 2018, according to IARC figures. 310,000 women die every year, mostly in low and middle-income countries.
“This is the fourth most common cancer in women,” said IARC. This organization estimates that if prevention does not increase, this disease may cause 460,000 deaths per year by 2040.
At the forefront of preventive measures advocated is vaccination against HPV, a group of very common viruses that are transmitted through sexual intercourse. Two of them, HPV 16 and 18, cause 70% of cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions, according to the WHO, which recommends vaccinating girls aged 9 to 14 years.
HPV vaccines have been matter of controversy. Critics accuse them of being the cause of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which has not corroborated by any study.
“To mark World Cancer Day 2019, the IARC reaffirms its commitment to fight the disease and unequivocally confirms that the HPV vaccine is effective and safe,” insisted Elisabete Weiderpass.
About 20 countries around the world, including Belgium, recommend that boys be vaccinated as well to reduce the circulation of viruses. In addition to cancer of the uterus, the virus can cause of anal cancer, and ear-nose-throat cancers.