Southern black women are more likely to have cervical cancer and die of the disease than any other Americans, according to a new analysis.
The study, “Recent trends in racial and regional disparities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality in United States,” appeared in the journal PLOS One.
This year alone, predicts the American Cancer Society, 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,210 will die of it. While cervical cancer is the fourth leading female cancer worldwide, early detection methods — specifically the Papanicolaou (Pap) test — have dramatically reduced both the incidence of cervical cancer and the mortality rate. Also a big contributor to this decline: the 2006 introduction of a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Yet black women still have a higher incidence of cervical cancer than white women, and from 2000 to 2009, they registered the highest death rate among all racial and ethnic groups. Likewise, women living in the South are more likely to get the disease than those elsewhere in the United States.
“Given that blacks disproportionately live in the South, these geographic variations raise a question about the combined effects of race and region on the outcomes of cervical cancer, specifically whether living in the South is associated with greater racial disparity in cervical cancer incidence and mortality,” wrote the researchers, whose work was financed by the National Cancer Institute, the Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute.
To find out whether that was the case, they used cervical cancer incidence and mortality data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) 18 Program, a database that collects cancer incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries throughout the United States. After adjusting the data for age, authors found that Southern non-Hispanic black women had the nation’s highest incidence of cervical cancer (11.1 diagnoses per 100,000 people) as well as the highest mortality rate (5.4 deaths per 100,000 people).
Interestingly, researchers noted that “the incidence rates of white women decrease after age 40, while those of black women increase with increasing age.” They also observed that mortality rates for non-Hispanic blacks jumped once women reached 65, while rates for non-Hispanice whites remained relatively stable.
Overall, researchers concluded that their analysis “suggests continuing progress during a recent decade in terms of racial disparity, but a stalled improvement in cervical cancer incidence and mortality in terms of regional disparity — particularly among young white women in the South.”