A Snapshot of Cervical Cancer

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Incidence and Mortality

Although cervical cancer incidence rates have declined 45 percent and mortality rates have declined 49 percent in the United States since 1980, the disease remains a serious health threat. Incidence rates in Hispanic women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are higher than in women from other racial/ethnic groups. Despite recent declines, mortality rates in African American women remain higher than women of any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. Cervical cancer mortality and incidence rates also vary with socioeconomic status and geographic location and cervical cancer screening rates vary across racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic groups.

Researchers have identified certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that are transmitted through sexual contact as the cause of essentially all cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected early. Important strategies to reduce cervical cancer deaths include screening with the Papanicolaou (Pap) test or with both the Pap test and a DNA test for HPV (cotesting). Another strategy is use of the HPV vaccine, which prevents infection with the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers. Standard treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Assuming that incidence and survival rates follow recent trends, it is estimated that $1.3 billion1 will be spent on cervical cancer care in the United States in 2014.

Line graphs showing U.S. Cervical Cancer Incidence and mortality per 100,000 Women, by race and ethnicity.  Incidence from 1991-2011 and mortality from 1990-2010 is shown. In 2011, Hispanics have the highest incidence followed by African Americans, whites, and Asians/Pacific Islanders. In 2010, African Americans have the highest mortality, followed by Hispanics, whites, and Asians/Pacific Islanders.  Insufficient data available for time trend analysis American Indian/Alaska Natives.

Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. Additional statistics and charts are available at the SEER Web site.

NCI’s Investment in Cervical Cancer Research

To learn more about the research NCI conducts and supports in cervival cancer, visit the NCI Funded Research Portfolio (NFRP). The NFRP includes information about research grants, contract awards, and intramural research projects funded by NCI. When exploring this information, it should be noted that approximately half of the NCI budget supports basic research that may not be specific to one type of cancer. By its nature, basic research cuts across many disease areas, contributing to our knowledge of the underlying biology of cancer and enabling the research community to make advances against many cancer types. For these reasons, the funding levels reported in NFRP may not definitively report all research relevant to a given category.

Pie chart of NCI Cervical Cancer Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2013.  Biology, 11%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 20%.  Prevention, 11%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 13%.  Treatment, 17%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 25%.  Scientific model systems, 3%.

Source: NCI Funded Research Portfolio. Only projects with assigned common scientific outline area codes are included. A description of relevant research projects can be found on the NCI Funded Research Portfolio Web site.

Other NCI programs and activities relevant to cervical cancer include:

Selected Advances in Cervical Cancer Research

  • Genomic comparisons of normal tissue and cervical carcinomas identified several recurrent mutations in cervical carcinomas that suggest new strategies to combat this disease. Published December 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • A vaccine used to treat women with high-grade precancerous cervical lesions triggers a robust immune response within cervical lesions, while conventional blood analysis detected only a modest immune response, suggesting that measuring responses directly in the lesions may be a more accurate way to evaluate therapeutic vaccines. Published January 2014. [PubMed Abstract]
  • In a randomized clinical trial, women with advanced cervical cancer who were treated with bevacizumab and chemotherapy lived about 4 months longer than those who were treated with chemotherapy alone. Published February 2014. [PubMed Abstract]
  • HPV types that cause most cervical cancers cause changes in the levels of small molecules called microRNAs in the infected cells and tissue, suggesting that these changes potentially could be used to diagnose or monitor the progression of cervical disease. Published March 2014. [PubMed Abstract]

Additional Resources for Cervical Cancer

  • Posted: November 5, 2014