Reducing the risks of cervical cancer


There are two vaccines which prevent HPV infection – Gardasil® and Cervarix®. Both vaccines have been shown to protect against high-risk HPV 16 and 18.

It is hoped that the vaccines will prevent at least 7 out of 10 cases (70%) of the most common type of cervical cancer (squamous cell cervical cancer).

These vaccines work best if they are given to children before puberty and before they start having sex. All 12–13-year-old girls in the UK are now routinely offered the HPV vaccination Gardasil®. The vaccines can also be obtained privately.

Cervical screening

This is an important way of detecting early changes in the cells of your cervix. A nurse will take a sample of cells from your cervix. This is sent to a laboratory and examined for any changes. If changes are found you may be referred for further tests.

Depending on the results of these, you may be offered treatment to get rid of the cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and help prevent you developing cancer. Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) is when there are changes in the surface (squamous) cells of the cervix. It’s not a cancer. But because CIN can increase the risk of cervical cancer developing, it is called a pre-cancerous condition.

In the UK, the NHS provides cervical screening tests for all women within a specific age range who are registered with a GP. The age range for screening varies across the UK:

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland screening takes place between the ages of 25–64.
  • In Scotland cervical screening takes place between the ages of 20–60.

Back to Potential causes of cancer

Human papilloma virus (HPV)

Human papilloma virus (or HPV) is a common infection. Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cancer.

HPV vaccines

There are two vaccines currently available across the UK to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV).