jade goody
The cervical cancer spotlight had turned to younger women following some celebrity deaths like that of Jade Goody aged 27 in 2009. It made women think of cervical cancer as a younger woman's disease but a report now says older women are more affectedReuters

Half of the deaths from cervical cancer are in women older than 65, as opposed to the common belief that younger women are most affected, says a British Medical Journal report.

This number could further increase, it warns.

An average of 449 deaths from the cancer was seen in the older category while only seven were reported in ages below 25 between 2010 and 2012.

The age limit for cervical screening should be raised to 70, argues the report calling for older women to be targeted in health campaigns.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, but affects women of all ages.

Following the death of a number of young women from cervical cancer there was a campaign in England to lower the age of screening from 25.

Yet 20% of new diagnoses are in women over 65, says the report.

Cervical screening is estimated to save 4,500 lives in England each year.

Most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. However, not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer.

Single vaccine dose enough

Research done in the US recently showed that a single dose of the bivalent HPV vaccine can protect against infections which cause 70% of cervical cancers.

At present two or three doses are given.

Data from two large trials involving healthy women aged 15 to 25 years found "high vaccine efficacy" against HPV-16/18 infections regardless of the number of doses the women received, according to the study published in the Lancet Oncology.

Experts at the National Cancer Institute believe a single dose could reduce vaccination and administration costs as well as improve uptake, especially in less developed regions of the world that report more than 80% of cervical cancers.

Research in the area has come up with a new and more effective vaccine developed at MedUni Vienna which targets HPV infections and prevents 90% of all cervical cancers caused by it.

New vaccine

The new vaccine protects against nine types of HPV and with 97% efficacy. The existing vaccine Gardasil protects against only two cancer-causing types of HPV.

Genital human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted virus with about 100 subtypes of HPV identified so far.

The virus infects epithelial cells in the skin and mucosal tissue and can cause tumours, especially cervical cancer in women.

HPV strains also cause other types of cancer in the genital and throat area, as also genital warts.

In the UK, 2,900 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer - around eight women every day, according to NHS.

Globally it is the fourth most common cancer in women across the world, with more than half a million cases and 250,000 deaths each year worldwide.