Screen. Prevent. Eliminate.

Cervical cancer rates have improved but still too high

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Don’t wait when it comes to cervical cancer screening. Preventive measures, regular screening and early detection can save lives.

A recent study looked at rates of invasive cervical cancer in the United States. Financial situation and neighborhood were likely factors in whether women were regularly screened.

The research authors believe that a future without invasive cancer is possible with targeted and practical national health care programs designed to help people find education, screenings and HPV prevention.

"Get regularly screened for cervical cancer."

Anna Giuliano, PhD, director of Moffitt’s Center for Infection Research in Cancer and Christine Pierce Campbell, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at Moffitt’s Cancer Epidemiology Department, led investigations into cervical cancer prevention.

Dr. Giuliano said, “The good news is that over the past several decades, the incidence of invasive cervical cancer has declined dramatically.”

“The bad news is that 60 percent of invasive cervical cancers occur in women who are members of underserved racial or ethnic minorities, in women residing in rural areas or living in poverty.”

Researchers evaluated rates of invasive cervical cancer (ICC), reasons why rates are not lower and use of cervical cancer vaccinations in order to propose a solution.

Since the 1940s ICC has dropped by 75 percent. In 1975 cervical cancer was diagnosed in 14.8 out of every 100,000 women. In 2008 cervical cancer was diagnosed in 6.6 of every 100,000 women on average.

Rates of ICC were higher in minorities. ICC was found in Hispanic women at a rate of 10.4 out of every 100,000 women. Elderly black women over the age of 85 are at an especially high risk, with three times the rate of ICC than elderly white women.

Authors note that rates of ICC are particularly high along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Appalachia region and in rural Southern areas.

Common use of cervical cancer screening and Pap smears have helped healthcare professionals detect early signs of cervical cancer and lower rates of ICC.

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a nationwide screening program, was a great way to reach underserved communities. However, only 9 percent of eligible women took advantage of this program between 2004-2006.

Dr. Pierce Campbell said, “[M]any studies have shown that socioeconomic status predicts who gets screened, diagnosed and treated for ICC, regardless of race and ethnicity.”

Both Gardasil and Cervarix are available for young women aged 9-26 for the prevention of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a known risk factor for cervical cancer.

Dr. Pierce Campbell said, “Barriers to HPV vaccination include costs, perceived safety issues, and the perception that vaccination is unnecessary if the woman or child is not sexually active…many primary care physicians have not been active in promoting it, especially to young adolescents in the target area groups.”

Only 32 percent of age-eligible women have gone through with all three doses required to make cervical cancer vaccinations effective.

This study was published in September in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Funding for this research was provided by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 23, 2012