'Mass vaccination must to prevent cervical cancer'

17 Mar 2009, 1312 hrs IST, PTI

MUMBAI: Mass vaccination can prevent high incidence of cervical cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in India, particularly in the
high-risk group aged between 10-45, a top German scientist has said.

"Cervical cancer caused mostly by sexually transmitted Human Papilloma virus (HPV) can be prevented mainly through vaccination as the virus is stable outside the human system," Prof Tino F Schwarz, Head Central Laboratory and Vaccination Centre, Germany, said, addressing a workshop for media here on Monday.

"The HPV is made of only proteins and DNA and without an envelope and thus cannot be destroyed easily. This is in contrast to the HIV (Human Immuno Virus) which has an envelope and can be destroyed easily and are not stable outside the human system," he said.

Cervical cancer ranks number one and every year 1,32,000 Indian women are diagnosed with this cancer and 74,000 die of the disease. The National Cancer Control Programme should gear up for mass vaccination of women between age group of 10- 45 years to prevent it, Schwarz said.

In India, HPV types 16, 18 and 45 are responsible for 81 per cent of the cervical cancer cases, the German scientist said.

The transmission of the virus is through skin to skin contact in the genital area and the virus can be acquired without full sexual intercourse, he said adding condoms may be a helpful preventive measure but do not fully protect women from acquiring the HPV.

Also, non-sexual transmission of the virus has been found in India due to lack of hygiene and for that education and awareness programmes have to be organised, he said.

Other factors contributing to this cancer but not directly responsible are: long term use of hormonal contraceptives, high parity, tobacco and co-infection with HPV.

"Since one out of every four women who die of cervical cancer is an Indian, the Nation Cancer Control programme should give a serious thought to it," Schwarz said adding the World Health Organisation and other NGOs like Gates Foundation are planning to fund mass vaccination in India.

In Western countries, women who divorce and remarry are also at a risk at a later age and therefore we are looking for vaccines for women above 45 years, he said.

Globally, 5,00,000 cases are reported in women each year and over one million new cases are expected every year by 2050 and a dramatic improvement in cervical cancer prevention is needed in the world to have a healthy women population, he said.