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Screening prevents two thirds of cervical cancer deaths

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A study by Cancer Research UK has found that cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths, with the figure potentially rising to 83% if all eligible women attended screening regularly. 

The research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is the first to establish how screening has affected the death rate be using screening information from women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

In England, around 800 women die from cervical cancer each year. This new study suggests that without screening an additional 1,827 more women would die from the disease. But if all women aged between 25-64 were screened regularly an extra 347 lives could be saved-  extensively reducing the number of deaths from disease.

The biggest impact of screening is among women aged between 50-64 where there would be five times more women dying from cervical cancer if there were no screening.

As well as helping to pick up the disease at an early stage, screening can also prevent cervical cancer from developing. The researchers estimated that there would be more than twice the number of cervical cancers diagnosed if there were no screening programme.

Professor Peter Sasieni, lead researcher based at Queen Mary University of London(link is external), said: “This study looked at the impact of cervical screening on deaths from the disease and estimated the number of lives the screening programme saves each year. Thousands of women in the UK are alive and healthy today thanks to cervical screening. The cervical screening programme already prevents thousands of cancers each year and as it continues to improve, by testing all samples for the human papilloma virus (HPV), even more women are likely to avoid this disease.”

Cervical cancer screening is offered in the UK to women aged between 25 and 64. The screening programme invites women every three years between the 25 and 49; after that they are invited every five years until they’re 64.

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