Mortality rates from cervical cancer are considerably higher than previous estimates have indicated, according to a study published Monday in the journal Cancer.
As The New York Times reports, the study adjusted the way that death rates are typically calculated, which is to say by comparing the number of women who succumb to a disease to the general population at risk. Crucially, researchers involved in the new study excluded women who had hysterectomies from their assessment of the general population; since the procedure usually removes the cervix, women who have undergone hysterectomies are not at risk of developing cervical cancer.
These new calculations not only indicated that mortality rates are higher than previously thought, but also revealed a marked disparity in death rates between white and black women. The mortality rate from cervical cancer is 4.7 per 100,000 for white women, and 10.1 per 100,000 for black women. Previous studies had shown that death rates were 3.2 and 5.7, respectively. The most affected population are black women over the age of 85.
The number of women of women dying from cervical cancer — some 4,000 in the United States every year — is not impacted by these results, and is in fact expected to drop. HPV vaccines and sophisticated detection methods, coupled with the slow progression of the disease, are likely to lead to a decline in both incidence and mortality rates.
But poor, black women in America may not have equal access to screenings and treatments. The study’s hysterectomy-corrected mortality rates bring black American women in league with women living in underdeveloped regions of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa. The study did not explore reasons for this disparity, but some doctors believe it can be attributed to unequal preventative care among socioeconomic, racial, and age groups.
“When we look at the difference between black and white, and rich and poor, we find the same disparity,” Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, told the Times. “The quality of assessment and follow-up treatment can be different. The question becomes: how do we get adequate preventive care to all people?
Read the full story at The New York Times.