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Rapid expansion of vaccination and screening required to eliminate cervical cancer as global health problem, research finds

Millions of deaths could be avoided worldwide with better cervical cancer interventions, research suggests.

Pap smear test in clinic


The study claims that wider coverage with existing technology, including cervical screening and HPV vaccination, would significantly reduce the global cervical cancer burden

More than 44 million women could be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the next 50 years if high coverage human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening cannot be achieved globally, a modelling study published in The Lancet Oncology on 19 February 2019 has found.

Two thirds of these cases, and an estimated 15 million deaths, would occur in countries with low and medium levels of development, the report warns.

The authors of the study carried out a statistical analysis of existing trends in cervical cancer worldwide using high-quality cancer registry data published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

They then used a dynamic model to calculate the impact of scaling up HPV vaccination and cervical screening on the cervical cancer burden globally between 2020 and the end of the century.

They estimated that, with widespread coverage of existing interventions such as vaccinations and screening, cervical cancer could be eliminated as a public health problem in 149 out of 181 countries by 2100.

In high-income countries including the United States, Finland, the UK and Canada, cervical cancer is projected to be eliminated as a public health problem within 25–40 years.

“Despite the enormity of the problem, our findings suggest that global elimination is within reach with tools that are already available, provided that both high coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical screening can be achieved”, said lead author Karen Canfell from the Cancer Council New South Wales, Australia.

“More than two thirds of cases prevented would be in countries with low and medium levels of human development like India, Nigeria, and Malawi, where there has so far been limited access to HPV vaccination or cervical screening.

“The WHO call-to-action provides an enormous opportunity to increase the level of investment in proven cervical cancer interventions in the world’s poorest countries. Failure to adopt these interventions will lead to millions of avoidable premature deaths.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206181

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