The number of women who die from cervical cancer in the United States may be higher than previously believed, and the risk is greatest among older and black women, a new study finds.”This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it,” study leader Anne Rositch, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release.
But the researchers note that prior estimates of cervical cancer death had included women who’d already had a hysterectomy. This can include the removal of the uterus and cervix.
One in five women in the United States has had a hysterectomy, according to the researchers.
Preventive screening such as the Pap test looks for signs of malignancy or pre-malignancy in the cervix, so it is only useful in reducing deaths from cervical cancer in women who have not undergone a hysterectomy, the researchers explained.
Their new calculation approach excludes women who’d had a hysterectomy.
When those women were factored out, Rositch’s team found that U.S. cervical cancer deaths are 77 percent higher among black women and 47 percent higher among white women than previously thought.
The prior rate of cervical cancer death among black women older than 20 was 5.7 per 100,000 each year. It was 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.
The research also found that many women who die from cervical cancer are older than 65, the recommended cut-off age for regular cervical cancer screening.
Each year in the United States, there are 12,000 cases of cervical cancer and 4,000 deaths from the disease. But routine screening can prevent cervical cancer.
The study findings emphasize the need to learn more about the risks associated with cervical cancer in older and black women, and to determine the best screening and treatment options for these women, according to the researchers.
“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 explained.
“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,” she added.