Women's health

Risk of cervical cancer doubles in poorer areas

zone image Latest cancer figures from the National Cancer Intelligence Network

Women living in the most deprived areas of England are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than their affluent counterparts, according to a report issued today.

The National Cancer Intelligence Network examined the effect of deprivation on the incidence of all types of cancer diagnosed between 1995 and 2004 nationwide. This included 25,000 cases of cervical cancer.

They found 12 women per 100,000 diagnosed with cervical cancer between 2000 and 2004 in the most deprived areas in England compared with only 6 per 100,000 women diagnosed with the disease in more affluent areas.

Professor David Forman, the NCIN information lead who is based at the University of Leeds, said:

"These striking figures show there is still much more that needs to be done to tackle cancer in low-income communities. Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease – the national screening programme will pick up most cases before they even develop into cancer. Our figures suggest that women living in poorer areas are less likely to attend cervical screening than women who are better-off, so they are more likely to develop the disease.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's extremely worrying that your income and where you live can have such a significant effect on your risk of cancer. It's clear that much more needs to be done to encourage women from low-income communities to attend cervical screening. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV – a sexually transmitted virus – and smoking increases the chances of the virus causing cancer. Greater awareness of the link with smoking and, most importantly, of cervical screening are all key to reducing the risk of cervical cancer in deprived areas.”

In September 2008, the rollout of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme – which protects against two strains of HPV that cause over 70 per cent of cases of cervical cancer – began for girls aged 12-13.

In the UK, around 2,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and around 1,000 women die from the disease.

For more information on cervical screening:http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk

This article was published on Tue 2 December 2008

Image © Vladislav Gansovsky - Fotolia.com

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