Researchers at AIIMS have found that vaccination against human papillomavirus (HVP) might prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers, cause of about 74,000 deaths every year in the country - the highest in the world.

In data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Basic Cancer Research Meeting, A Raj Kumar Patro and colleagues from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences have said that vaccines can prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers in India.

The vaccines for HPV-16 and HPV-18 viruses, the most common types of HPV identified in India, are available in the market, but are costly.

“The vaccine is better accepted than screening in most cases, but it is difficult for most of the population to purchase it at the current price.

“At present, it is purchased by the upper classes and if it becomes freely available through advocacy and outreach efforts, it could reach the general population”, Mr. Patro, a doctoral student in the Department of Microbiology, AIIMS said.

“In terms of cancer death, India has one-fourth of the global burden and when you standardise for age it is the highest in the world,” Mr. Patro said.

Cervical cancer caused by HPV is the most common cancer among Indian women, with an estimated 132,000 new cases and 74,000 deaths annually.

The team examined 106 women with invasive cervical cancer, 524 women with an unhealthy cervix and a community-based population who underwent HPV testing.

“Most women with an advanced state of the disease and compliance with treatment are very poor,” the study found.

To effectively vaccinate against HPV, scientists need a greater understanding of the genotype. More than 100 types of HPV are identified in humans and at least 40 of them are found in the anus and genital tract, which makes HPV a moving target, according to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Of invasive cervical cancer cases, 83 per cent were linked with HPV-16 or HPV-18. Among those with unhealthy cervix, 15.5 per cent had HPV, the research found.