22 – Vaccines and cancer control: from Hepatitis B to HPV

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There are a staggering 2 million people infected with hepatitis B worldwide and an additional 250 million chronic carriers of the virus

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Copyright UNICEF/2012/Donna DeCesare

The session started with Dr. Okwo-Bele, WHO, Geneva providing an overview of the cancer burden caused by infections with hepatitis B and human papillomavirus virus (HPV) in low-income countries.

There are a staggering 2 million people infected with hepatitis B worldwide and an additional 250 million chronic carriers of the virus.

Of these, nearly 600,000 deaths occur each year, many of which could be prevented by hepatitis B vaccine (hep B). Similarly, HPV is responsible for significant mortality – an estimated 275,000 deaths annually – the vast majority occurring in the developing world.

Stressing the importance of comprehensive cervical cancer control, the Zambian First Lady, Dr. Kaseba Sata underlined the importance of breaking local taboos and educating communities with targeted, well planned communication of the importance of early screening methods to detect preliminary signs of cervical cancer.

Dr. Kaseba Sata describe the dividends paid by concerted efforts to train middle-level health practitioners in screening methods and the utility of archived cytographic photos for timely diagnosis improved service quality.

As the First Lady stated, the provision of quality services has “created a groundswell of community demand for screening services” and “no woman should leave the clinic without being treated for lower level lesions that are otherwise treatable.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS), the oldest, largest volunteer organization in the world, raises more than 1 billion US$ annually and has recently taken its mission beyond domestic borders in support of comprehensive cancer control in developing countries.

ACS stresses the importance of investing in the most cost-effective, high impact interventions, such as screening, access to “cancer vaccines” hep B and HPV, and essential pain medication.

ACS as well as the National Cancer Institute underlined the importance of establishing effective partnerships to educate and build community awareness, create demand and accountability and engage communities and individuals.

As Maria Blair from ACS stated, “We know what we need to do and have the opportunity to prevent needless death of our mothers and daughters.”


70% of cervical cancer cases can be prevented with human papillomavirus vaccines.

World Health Organization

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