A Snapshot of Cervical Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Although cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined nearly 50 percent in the United States over the past three decades, the disease remains a serious health threat. Incidence rates in Hispanic women are higher than those in non-Hispanic women. Despite recent declines, African-American women still have higher mortality rates than women of any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. Additional geographic and socioeconomic disparities in cervical cancer mortality and cervical cancer screening also exist.
Researchers have identified certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that are transmitted through sexual contact as the cause of nearly all cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected early. Important strategies to reduce the risk of cervical cancer include screening with the Papanicolaou (Pap) test or cotesting with both the Pap test and a DNA test for HPV. Preventing HPV infection with the HPV vaccine also may reduce risk. Standard treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
It is estimated that approximately $1.6 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on cervical cancer treatment.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Cervical Cancer
- The Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities support transdisciplinary research on interactions of the social and physical environments, behavioral factors, and biologic pathways that determine health and disease in populations. One center is focused on understanding why cervical cancer incidence and mortality are higher in Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia than in other areas of the United States.
- NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) supports ongoing follow-up of participants in an HPV vaccine trial to further investigate the vaccine's risks and benefits and conducts multiple other HPV-related studies.
- NCI is funding research projects to investigate Biomarkers of Infection-Associated Cancers. One project is identifying biomarkers of HPV persistence in college-age women to predict which HPV infections are most likely to lead to cervical cancer.
- The Breast and Gynecologic Cancer Research Group supports studies on prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. These include development of new agents, biomarkers, and technologies.
- NCI's Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens (PROSPR) program supports multisite, coordinated transdisciplinary research on cervical cancer screening to better understand how to improve the screening process, including recruitment, diagnosis, and referral for treatment. The cervical cancer project is comparing self-collection to provider-directed HPV primary screening; analyzing statewide cervical screening, diagnosis, and treatment failures; and comparing the effectiveness of alternative interventions.
- Gynecologic-cancer-specific Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) are moving results from the laboratory to the clinical setting. One SPORE is striving to improve the clinical care of patients with HPV-associated cervical cancer and its precursor lesions.
Selected Advances in Cervical Cancer Research
- Women who test positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), have normal cervical cytology, and are not infected with oncogenic HPVs have incidence rates of cervical precancer similar to those of HIV-negative women, raising the possibility that recommendations for cotesting (Pap plus HPV testing) in the general population ultimately may be found appropriate for HIV-positive women as well. Published July 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- Most risk factors for cervical cancer that are not related to HPV infection itself—including use of oral contraceptives, having multiple children, and smoking—play a role in the transition from HPV infection to cervical precancer. Published November 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- HIV-infected women have a greater incidence of invasive cervical cancer compared with uninfected women, and incidence is higher in those with poorer immune status. Published December 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- HPV viral loads may be useful for determining which women over 35 years of age should receive colposcopy in locales where high-quality cytology-based screening is unavailable. Published May 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to cervical cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Cervical Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in cervical cancer research increased from $76.8 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $81.4 million in FY 2011 before decreasing to $72.6 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $14.3 million in cervical cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).3
Additional Resources for Cervical Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Cervical Cancer
Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with cancer of the.
- Cervical Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about cervical cancer.
- HPV and Cancer Fact Sheet
A fact sheet about the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cancer.
- Pap and HPV Testing Fact Sheet
A fact sheet that describes cervical cancer screening, which includes the Pap test and HPV testing. The fact sheet includes information about cervical cancer screening guidelines.
- Cervical Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of cervical cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Cervical Cancer
- 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 3 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.