Cancer Cervical Cancer Health Conditions Hub

Cervical Cancer Rates Much Higher Than Thought

Study finds highest rates in women 65 to 69 and black women

We’ve been getting it wrong on the cervical cancer front, according to a new study, which finds that rates in this country are much higher than previously reported, particularly among women in their 60s and black women.

Earlier studies estimated the rate at about 12 cases per 100,000 women, with the highest rates in women between ages 40 and 44 before leveling off. Those estimates included women who had hysterectomies, in which they’d had their cervix removed.

In the new study, researchers excluded women with hysterectomies, because they were no longer at risk, and concluded that the overall rate of cervical cancer was 18.6 cases per 100,000 women. Researchers also found that the incidence of cervical cancer rose steadily with age, peaking at ages 65 to 69. In fact, in this study, the incidence of cervical cancer among women ages 65 to 69 was 84 percent higher than previously reported.

For black women, the numbers are even more alarming. In this study, black women had higher cervical cancer rates than white women at nearly every age, with the greatest difference among the 65 to 69 set.

“Our corrected calculations show that women just past 65, when current guidelines state that screenings can stop for many women, have the highest rate of cervical cancer,” study lead author Anne Rositch, an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a release. “It will be important to consider these findings when re-evaluating risk and screening guidelines for cervical cancer in older women and the appropriate age to stop screening.”

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Researchers noted early detection and treatment have prevented many incidences of cervical cancer, but the disease remains a significant problem. They stress the need for greater use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (HPV is responsible for the majority of all cervical cancers) and suggest new guidelines be developed for women older than 65, who currently aren’t recommended for routine Pap smears. And, according to Rositch, we need further studies to determine “whether the continued increase in cervical cancer rates with age and the higher rates in African-American women represent a failure in our screening programs or a failure of the women to be screened so that appropriate interventions can be applied.”

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