Research News

Screening reduced cervical cancer deaths by more than two thirds, UK study finds

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 16 September 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i5026
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

Regular cervical screening at least every five years is associated with a 67% reduction in cervical cancer that translates into a 70% reduction in deaths from the disease, a study has found.1

The study, reported in the British Journal of Cancer, is the first to assess the impact of screening on deaths from cervical cancer by using information from the cervical screening programme in England on women who have had the disease diagnosed.

Researchers analysed prospectively recorded cervical screening data from 11 619 women aged 25-79 with cervical cancer diagnosed from April 2007 to March 2013. Each of these women was compared with two age matched control participants without cancer, to look at how the risk of developing cervical cancer was associated with attending cervical screening regularly, irregularly, or never in the preceding 15 years.

Results showed that regular screening (at least every 5.5 years) was associated with a 67% (95% confidence interval 62% to 73%) reduction in early stage cervical cancer (stage IA) and a 95% (94% to 97%) reduction in stage III or worse cervical cancer when compared with no or minimal screening.

Regular screening was associated with 85% lower odds of cervical cancer than with no or minimal screening (odds ratio 0.18 (0.16 to 0.19)) and 92% lower odds of death from cervical cancer (0.08 (0.07 to 0.09)).

Using cervical cancer survival data, the researchers estimated that the screening programme in England currently prevents 70% (66% to 73%) of cervical cancer deaths but that, if all eligible women attended screening regularly, 83% (82% to 84%) of deaths due to the disease could be prevented.

“We have shown that screening has an even larger impact on cervical cancer mortality than it has on incidence,” said the researchers, led by Peter Sasieni, of Queen Mary University of London, UK.


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