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Cervical Cancer Deadlier Than Thought

The death rate from cervical cancer in the United States is higher than previously believed, according to a new study, and the risk is greatest among black and older women.
“This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it,” said study leader Anne Rositch, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Major advances in early detection, including preventive screening such as Pap smears, led us to believe cervical cancer rates were declining in this country. But this new research, which, unlike previous studies, excluded women who’d had hysterectomies, found U.S. cervical cancer deaths are 77 percent higher among black women and 47 percent higher among white women than previously thought. The study concluded that the mortality rate of black women due to cervical cancer is comparable to that of women in poor and developing counties.
The prior rate of cervical cancer death among black women older than 20 was 5.7 per 100,000 each year and 3.2 per 100,000 each year among white women. But when women who’d had a hysterectomy were excluded from the analysis, the rate in black women rose to more than 10 per 100,000 per year and to 4.7 per 100,000 per year in white women.
“These data tell us that as long as a woman retains her cervix, it is important that she continue to obtain recommended screening for cervical cancer since the risk of death from the disease remains significant well into older age,” Rositch said.
There are 12,000 cases of cervical cancer and 4,000 deaths from the disease in the U.S. each year. Routine screening can detect cervical cancer, and it can be treated with appropriate care.
“Since the goal of a screening program is to ultimately reduce mortality from cervical cancer, then you must have accurate estimates within the population targeted by those programs—adult women with a cervix,” Rositch said. “These findings motivate us to better understand why, despite the wide availability of screening and treatment, older and black women are still dying from cervical cancer at such high rates in the United States.”


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