Cervical Cancer Deadlier Than Previously Thought: US Sees Higher Death Rates

Posted January 26, 2017

The study did not compare prevalence of risk factors, diagnosis and treatment rates, or access to care, so it can not draw definite conclusions as to why these big differences exist-so it's not clear if you are more likely to get cancer in those counties, or just die of it (say, due to lack of effective treatment).

In the US this year there will be about 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer, with about 4,210 deaths, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society. "In addition, many of those who are dying are over the age of 65, a cutoff point where guidelines generally no longer recommend women with cervices be regularly screened for cervical cancer", she added. Because of this, screening for cervical cancer with a Pap smear or HPV test is recommended, to catch precancerous lesions before they develop into cancer. In a new study, however, researchers found that the death rate of cervical cancer in the United States is considerably higher than previously thought. According to the American Cancer Society about 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.

From Imperial County in the south to Humboldt County up north, virtually all of California's coastal counties saw steep and steady declines in deaths from cancer over the 35 years studied.

The revised statistics are staggering: When the data was corrected for hysterectomy, the rate for black women jumps to 10.1 per 100,000 per year and to 4.7 per 100,000 year for white women.

Most cervical cancers are linked to infection with high risk forms of human papillomavirus (HPV).

In the study, Murray and his colleagues used federal data to estimate death rates from 29 cancers in counties across the nation. But routine screening can help prevent it. Most previous reports on geographic differences in cancer mortality in the US have focused on variation by state, with less information available at the county level. However prevention of HPV by vaccination is major restraining factor in the growth of cervical cancer diagnostics market.

Differences in death rates should also be a red flag that certain communities aren't getting the benefits of screening, early detection, and specialized treatments that others are, he says-especially for cancers with normally high survival rates, like breast and prostate cancers. But in rare cases, HPV infections linger for years, and this puts women at risk for cervical cancer. HPV is believed to cause more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers, 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers and 60 percent of penile cancers.

"This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it", says Dr. Anne Rositch, PhD, MSPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and lead author of the research.

Cancer, the No 2 cause of death in the USA, has always been tracked by health officials, but existing databases had largely measured such statistics on state or national levels.