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Cervical cancer linked to deprivation

A report published by the NCIN shows that women living in deprived areas of England are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as those in affluent areas

A report published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) shows that women living in deprived areas of England are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as those in affluent areas.

The report, which was presented at the Britain Against Cancer conference on December 2, 2008, covers all cancer cases diagnosed in England between 1995 and 2004 and included more than 25,000 cases of cervical cancer.

In the most deprived areas of England, 12 women per thousand were diagnosed with cervical cancer between 2000 and 2004, twice as many as in the most affluent areas. The report links this difference to a lower take-up of cervical screening in deprived areas.

Professor David Forman, NCIN information lead, based at the University of Leeds, said: "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.

"Higher rates of smoking in most deprived areas and the earlier onset of sexual activity also contribute to the higher rates of cervical cancer."

Women in England aged 25 to 64 are invited for screening every three to five years. Screening can pick up changes to cells before cervical cancer develops. In 2006, around 20 per cent of women invited for screening did not attend. Previous research has shown women in deprived areas can be 40 per cent less likely to attend.

Professor Julietta Patnick CBE, director of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, highlighted that cervical screening saves around 4,500 lives a year.

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

In September 2008, vaccination of 12-13 year old girls against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) began. GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix drug (which protects against the two strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer in over 70 per cent of women) was selected for use by the Department of Health.

2nd December 2008

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