Aussies Could be Cervical Cancer Free Within 20 Years!

Australia is on track to be the first country to eliminate preventable cervical cancers, a new review of health data has found.

Publishing this month in the science journal “The Lancet“, the Cancer Council of New South Wales forecasts that—based on current HPV vaccination rates, screening availability and early detection—Australia could conceivably eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem within the next two decades. This does not mean that there wouldn’t be isolated cases of cervical cancer still popping up. Rather, it would mean that, functionally, cervical cancer would no longer be a major health worry — and that’s big news.

“The age-standardised annual incidence of cervical cancer will decrease to fewer than six new cases per 100 000 women by 2020 (range 2018–22), and to fewer than four new cases per 100 000 women by 2028,” the researchers write. “…By 2066 (2054–77), the annual incidence of cervical cancer will decrease and remain at fewer than one case per 100 000 women.”

The World Health Organization has not set a precise threshold for when cervical cancer should be classed as having been functionally eliminated, however the researchers say that regardless of where that precise level is set, Australia looks set to be the first country in the world to achieve the goal of having eliminated cervical cancer as a national health problem. That’s incredible news.

How Did Australia Tackle Cervical Cancer?

Australia has been a world leader in rolling out the HPV vaccine, first to teenage girls in 2007 and later extending that program to boys, too.

The HPV vaccine prevents the spread of the most common strains of the Human papilloma virus. Research has demonstrated that people infected by the virus (technically, viruses as there are many kinds of HPV) are far more likely to develop cervical cancers, cancers of the penis and anal cancers. As a result, the Gardasil HPV vaccine offers protection on two fronts: preventing the spread of HPV, which can cause infertility problems and  safeguarding young people from developing cancers in later life.

Despite claims to the contrary, the vaccine’s safety record has proved excellent, and the extremely slight risk of serious complications from the vaccine are far, far outweighed by its ability to reduce cervical cancer deaths. Given that cervical cancer is currently classed as the fourth leading cause for female cancer mortality, the vaccine is very much needed, and Australia’s deliberate action on the vaccine has paid off hugely.

Australia has also changed how it screens people for cervical cancer.

Australia introduced a new protocol last year that does away with the old cervical pap smear test as a front line screening measure. Instead, women are now screened  for signs of HPV, which can allow clinicians to put patients on a pathway for cancer checks earlier. This reduces the likelihood of cancer having become more advanced before it is caught.

The new protocol reduces the risk of needing more invasive or harsh treatments. Yet, because the tests have proved so effective, patients only need to be screened every five years, the standard time period under the old model. This leads to less uncomfortable testing but better results for the patient.

In fact, it’s predicted that the new test will reduce cancer rates by as much as 20 percent — a massive win for a relatively simple change in cervical screening guidelines.

There is one big provision to all of this, of course, and it is something that the authors themselves highlight. Australia will need to maintain screening and HPV vaccination levels in order to ensure that HPV remains under control.

While there is some wiggle room, as Australia has now achieved a level of immunization that means there is a herd immunity effect starting to emerge around HPV, complacency cannot be allowed to creep in. The next challenge for researchers will be how government policy can ensure that the vaccination and screening programs remain a high priority.

This also highlights just how vitally important it is that women across the world have access to the same protection that Australian women are provided. “Two-thirds of the world’s population of women don’t get access to what Australian women do,” Joe Tooma, the chief executive of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, said in a press release, “Unless we do something, it will still be one of the major cancer killers in developing countries.”

Fortunately, the Australian model could be replicated in many developed nations, and while there would be unique challenges based on each country’s individual healthcare system, the vaccination and screening protocols could make a real difference.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Carol C
Carol C8 days ago

Excellent news! The vaccine is available here in the US, too - hope that more people will take advantage of it.

Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang10 days ago

By and large vaccines are a good thing. Decades ago polio was the curse of summer.
The Salk vaccine changed that. Vaccines aren't perfect but they have done a great deal of good.

Julie W
Julie W11 days ago

The daughter of a friend of mine became very ill after getting the vaccine.

Julie W
Julie W11 days ago

A few posters here seem to be under the impression this is only available in Australia. You can certainly get it in the US - if you care to. It has been banned in several countries, including Spain, India, and Japan, and criminal proceedings are underway.

Chad A
Chad Anderson12 days ago


Justin M
Justin M12 days ago


Camilla V
Camilla V12 days ago


Shirley S
Shirley S13 days ago

Australia doesn't rush into this type of vaccination without stringent testing. Bravo OZ.

Jetana A
Jetana A13 days ago

Is this vaccine available anywhere else? It sounds like it should be available in all "developed" countries by now.

Julie O
Julie O13 days ago

The HPV vaccine is dangerous and nothing more than marketing and profiteering by the vaccine industry. Just a few of the many tragic stories surrounding this vaccine and other related . Don't fall for it - As of August 2018, there are no studies that confirm HPV vaccine has reduced the incidence of HPV associated cancers.
Healthy Child Dies Following HPV Vaccine
Gardasil Was Linked to My Daughter’s Death
How Effective is HPV Vaccine?
Merck Accused Of Deceiving Public With HPV Vaccine In Court Case
Colton Berrett: Another Teen Sacrificed by the HPV Vaccine, Has Died