Cervical cancer occurrence and death rates remain higher among women of lower socioeconomic status than among better-off women, according to a new report.
‘The importance of early detection for this cancer cannot be overemphasized in terms of ensuring high survival rates,’ Dr. Gopal K. Singh from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, told Reuters Health. ‘Yet one sees dramatic ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the use of Pap tests and early-stage diagnoses of cervical cancer.’ As reported in the online issue of the medical journal Cancer, Dr. Gopal and colleagues used data from 11 population-based cancer registries along with census data to examine socioeconomic patterns in cervical cancer for the total population and for major racial/ethnic groups. Cervical cancer rates trended downward between 1975 and 2000, the authors report, but women in high poverty counties had at least a one-third higher incidence than women in low poverty counties throughout the study period. Differences were especially marked for non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and American Indians. During the 25-year period, differences in deaths from cervical cancer between high and low poverty counties actually widened slightly. ‘Cervical cancer screening is of course critical,’ Singh said, ‘and targeting women of lower socioeconomic status and ethnic minority women in deprived neighborhoods in particular should be a priority.’ The toll from cervical cancer ‘can be dramatically reduced through universal cervical cancer screening,’ Singh added. He noted that prevention of infection by human papilloma virus, which causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer, is another goal. It’s possible that a vaccine against HPV infection could be a reality soon. (SOURCE: Cancer online issue: Reuters Health News: Will Boggs, MD: July 2004.)