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Abnormalities in the Cervix are More Common in Women Who Had taken Highly Effective DMTs, Says New Study

April 11, 2024

A new study of 248 women with MS showed that those who had taken highly effective disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) had a greater risk of developing abnormal cell changes in the cervix, the lower end of the womb. This study suggests that check-ups and screenings may help to catch and treat these cell changes before they develop into cancer.

Background: Research has shown that women whose immune systems are compromised (suppressed) are at increased risk for cell abnormalities in the cervix. These abnormalities are changes in the cells that may indicate the development of cervical cancer. Researchers from Australia’s Monash University and University of Melbourne examined this issue in women with MS who had taken immune-regulating therapies.

The Study: The team analyzed information about women in Victoria, Australia who were diagnosed with MS; had screening for cervical abnormalities after MS  diagnosis, and had no abnormalities before their MS diagnosis. They identified 248 women with MS, and separated them into two groups – those who had taken moderately effective MS therapies with longer safety track records  those who had taken low-moderately effective therapies including platform injectables (interferon beta and glatiramer acetate) and an oral therapy (teriflunomide), or the more highly effective therapies that have more potential for adverse side effects and stronger impacts on the immune system (fingolimod, cladribine, dimethyl fumarate, natalizumab, ocrelizumab, rituximab, alemtuzumab). (Get comprehensive information on medications used in MS.)

Results: The team found that the risk of developing cervical abnormalities was more than 3 times higher in women taking highly effective medications. In both groups of women, they also found that the rates of vaccination for human papilloma virus (HPV) were low. HPV is a common infection that spreads through sexual contact and is a major cause of cervical cancer. An HPV vaccine, Gardasil®, is recommended for women in certain age groups. Gardasil is considered a safe vaccine for women who have MS.

Why does this matter? This study indicates that women with MS who have taken moderate-highly effective disease-modifying therapies are at greater risk of having cervical abnormalities than women who have taken low-moderately effective treatments. Although further study is needed, these findings are important because cervical abnormalities can be identified with proper screening and treated, thus preventing cervical cancer in most cases.

Get the facts about cervical cancer screening and how MS affects women
  • Learn more about the tests that screen for cervical cancer, how often to get them, and how to prepare – the Centers for Disease Control provides information for women of all ages in English and Spanish
  • Get information about Gardasil® safety in women with MS here
  • Watch a webinar on Women’s Health in MS
  • What are researchers doing to understand women’s health? Learn more
Risk of Cervical Abnormalities for Women With Multiple Sclerosis Treated With Moderate-Efficacy and High-Efficacy Disease-Modifying Therapies” by Francesca Bridge, MBBS, Julia Brotherton, PhD, Jim Stankovich, PhD, Paul G. Sanfilippo, PhD, Olga G. Skibina, MD, FRACP, Katherine Buzzard, MBBS, PhD, Tomas Kalincik, MD, PhD, Ai-Lan Nguyen, MBBS, PhD, Kylie Guo, BS, Mastura Monif, MBBS, PhD, C. David Wrede, MA, MB, Louise Rath, BA, Lisa Taylor, BN, MN, Helmut Butzkueven, MBBS, PhD, Vilija G. Jokubaitis, PhD, and Anneke Van Der Walt, MBChB, PhD is published in Neurology 2024;102(4)

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

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The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved:, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.


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