Cervical cancer could be eliminated in the countries worst affected by the disease, saving 62 million women’s lives by 2120.
This is according to the result of two new studies, which examined the potential effect on cervical cancer rates over the next 100 years if proposed measures for elimination of the disease are implemented.
The first study investigated the potential progress that could be made in eliminating new cervical cancer rates by introducing or increasing HPV vaccination coverage, or by combining high levels of vaccination with cervical screening once or twice in a woman’s lifetime.
The second study included cancer treatment, and looked at the impact of vaccination, screening and treatment in reduced cervical cancer related deaths.
The study focused on 78 low-income countries and lower-middle income countries (LMICS).
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer and the biggest cause of cancer deaths in LMICs. In high-income countries, vaccination against HPV has significantly improved cervical cancer prevention, but in most LMICs vaccination has a low uptake.
This disparity promoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to call for action to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in 2018.
The trifold strategy with a target of 2030 involves increasing vaccination to 90% coverage; ensuring 70% of women are screened twice in their lives around the ages of 35 and 45; and ensuring 90% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer receive the treatment they need.
According to the results, vaccination alone could reduce cervical cancer cases by 89% in these countries over the next century – preventing 60 million cases.
This, together with twice-lifetime screening could help 100% of countries achieve elimination by reducing cases by 97% and preventing 74 million cases in total by 2120.
In the second study, which examined the potential effect of all three elements of the strategy (screening, vaccination and cancer treatment), the study authors found the triple strategy could avert 300,000 deaths by 2030 and 62 million by 2120, reducing mortality by 99%.
“Our findings emphasise the importance of acting immediately to combat cervical cancer on all three fronts,” says Adjunct Professor Karen Canfell from Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, Australia, who co-led both studies.
“In just 10 years, it’s possible to reduce deaths from the disease by a third and, over the next century, more than 60 million women’s lives could be saved. This would represent an enormous gain in terms of both quality of life and lives saved.”