Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a necessary, although not sufficient cause of cervical cancer. Globally, HPV infection accounts for an estimated 530,000 cervical cancer cases (~270,000 deaths) annually, with the majority (86% of cases, 88% of deaths) occurring in developing countries. Approximately 90% of anal cancers and a smaller subset (<50%) of other cancers (oropharyngeal, penile, vaginal, vulvar) are also attributed to HPV. In total, HPV accounts for 5.2% of the worldwide cancer burden. HPVs 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases and, especially HPV 16, for a large proportion of other cancers. Prophylactic vaccination targeting these genotypes is therefore expected to have a major impact on the burden of cervical cancer as well as that of other HPV-related cancers. Over the past 50 years, organized or opportunistic screening with Papanicolaou (Pap) cytology has led to major reductions in cervical cancer in most developed countries. However, due to lack of resources or inadequate infrastructure, many countries have failed to reduce cervical cancer mortality through screening. HPV DNA testing recently emerged as a likely candidate to replace Pap cytology for primary screening. It is less prone to human error and more sensitive than Pap in detecting high-grade cervical lesions. For countries with national vaccination programs, HPV testing may also serve as a low cost strategy to monitor long term vaccine efficacy. Introduction of well organized vaccination and screening programs should be a priority for all countries. Increased support from donors is needed to support this cause.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Inc.