HPV Vaccine More Effective Than Thought

"You really get a little more bang for your buck; you get some modest protection against other [strains] based on this data," said Ault. "Seventy percent [of cervical cancer] is caused by strains 16 or 18, so that leaves a 30 percent window that we've been worried about … so you might be able to get at some of those other cases through this cross-protection effect."

Despite the new findings that show increased protection, doctors point to an important limitation of the vaccine — it is only 39 percent effective against lesions caused by these other strains of HPV. The majority of that efficacy was seen in just two of the other 10 strains, notes Harper.

However, physicians are still optimistic about the new findings and hope additional coverage will eventually help reduce cervical cancer rates.

"The vaccine is very safe and effective in preventing [cervical pre-cancer] caused by the two most common cancer-causing HPV types," said Brown. "[Women] should also know that they can have this extra measure of protection against other types."

But Harper notes that there is no substitute for other means of prevention and early detection.

"Even with the coverage of more types … people that have Gardasil can still get cancer," she said. "Pap screening is still important."

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