In a world-first, Australia is on track to achieve a landmark medical breakthrough: the eradication of cervical cancer. The disease – which in 2018 recorded 930 cases among Australian women – is set to become so rare in the next 20 years that it will no longer be considered a public health problem.
Experts are predicting that cervical cancer will affect just four in 100,000 women by 2035. By as soon as 2022, it is expected to affect no more than six in 100,000, according to research published in the Lancet Public Health Journal and released by the Cancer Council this week.
The positive development is partly being chalked up to the rollout of the world-first Gardasil vaccination program, which has been vaccinating schoolchildren around the country against the human papillomavirus (HPV) for the past ten years. SBS reports that about 79 per cent of 15-year-old girls have had the voluntary vaccination, with the first recipients now starting to reach their mid-thirties.
Australia’s pap smear program has also been instrumental in fighting the disease, by identifying any abnormalities in the early stages, Fairfax reports. Since the introduction of that program in 1991, cervical cancer rates among women have dropped by about 50 per cent.
Currently, the incidence rate of the disease in Australia sits at about seven per 100,000 – half the global average. Researchers suggest that if current practices continue, cervical cancer will be almost eradicated nationally within the next 50 years: with predictions of there being just one case per 100,000 by 2066. Cervical cancer is currently responsible for 21 deaths per million women. It is thought that by 2100 that number could be as low as three.
Professor Karen Canfell, director of research at Cancer Council NSW, celebrated the success of Australia’s battle against the devastating disease – and suggested that a next step involved taking those medical developments to a global scale.
“This is such exciting news for women across Australia,” she said “We’ve been leading the way in cervical cancer control for many years and we’ll be sharing our research and approaches with the rest of the world as part of a global push to eliminate this highly preventable cancer.”
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.