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Cervical Cancer Rates Rising in Lower-Income US Counties

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Women in lower-income areas of the US face a stark rise in cervical cancer incidence and mortality, according to a new study led by researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The results, published in the International Journal of Cancer, demonstrate that the incidence rate for distant-stage cervical cancer has increased most among White women living in lower-income counties, at 4.4% annually since 2007. The largest increase in cervical cancer mortality rates occurred in Black women in lower-income counties, at 2.9% annually since 2013, despite cancer incidence in this group declining.

“The findings are quite concerning,” said lead author Trisha Amboree, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in behavioural science. “Despite decades of improvement due to the widespread implementation of cervical cancer prevention programmes in the US, our study shows women may be facing disruptions along the screening and treatment continuum that are leading to more distant-stage cancers and, potentially, more deaths.”

In 2019, across all racial and ethnic groups, cervical cancer incidence was greater among women living in lower-income counties in the US, with the highest absolute incidence observed among Hispanic women.

“These data add to a growing body of evidence indicating widening disparities driven by socio-economic status,” said co-senior author Jane Montealegre, PhD, associate professor of behavioural science. “Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable through vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), screening, and early detection. This continued upward trend calls for scaled-up efforts to eliminate disparities in cervical cancer prevention.”

Researchers used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-22 (SEER-22) data between 2000–2019 to examine occurrences of cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths. They also analysed race, ethnicity, and county-level median household income, with the lower-income counties ranging from USD$19,330 to USD$38,820.

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