Screening halves cervical cancer rates

24 Feb 2009

New statistics from Cancer Research UK show that women in the UK are now half as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer as they were when the NHS Cervical Screening Programme began in 1988.

The rate of women diagnosed with the disease has halved from 16 per 100,000 in 1988 to 8 per 100,000 according to the latest figures.

In the late 1980s around 4,800 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in Great Britain. Now, after 20 years of screening only around 2,700 women are diagnosed with the disease.

Before the programme started cervical cancer was the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. But because of screening, twenty years later, it is now ranked 13th.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “These compelling figures show how effective the programme has been in preventing the disease and saving lives. Screening works by picking up early changes in the cervix before they can develop into cancer.”

The number of deaths from cervical cancer has also seen a huge drop. Twenty years ago more than 2,000 women died in Britain every year from the disease compared to 921 in 2006. This means cervical cancer is no longer one of the top 20 most common causes of cancer death.

But, the latest reports show that the number of women taking up their invitations for screening is falling, particularly among those aged 25-34.

Sara Hiom said: “Even though cervical cancer is no longer in the top 10 of all cancers, it is still the second most common cancer for women under the age of 35. Crucially, women must attend screening as soon as they receive the invitation letter from their GP – it could save their lives. If signs of the disease are picked up early then treatment is easy and effective.”