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Cancer Routine vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) and screening tests are playing a key role in reducing women’s risk of developing cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer affects the neck of the womb, or cervix, and is caused by infection with HPV, which spreads through genital skin-to-skin contact. It is the second most common cancer in women under 35. According to estimates, the HPV vaccine could save 400 of the over 900 lives that are lost to this cancer every year in the UK.

The idea is that giving the vaccine before the first sexual contact occurs lowers the chances of contracting the infection and, consequently, developing cervical cancer later in life, says Miss Adeola Olaitan, a consultant gynaecological oncologist at University College London Hospital. “Most women are infected with HPV at some point, and the infection is usually harmless. But occasionally the virus causes changes in the cells of the cervix, which can lead to cancer.”

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