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Cervical Cancer Health Center

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Cervical Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Description of Evidence

Incidence and Mortality

An estimated 12,360 new cervical cancers and 4,020 cervical cancer deaths will occur in the United States in 2014.[1] An additional 1,250,000 women will be diagnosed with precancers annually by cytology using the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear. A continuum of pathologic changes may be diagnosed, ranging from atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance to low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) to high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) to invasive cancer. The precancerous conditions LSIL and HSIL are also referred to as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 1, 2, and 3. Lesions can regress, persist, or progress to an invasive malignancy, with LSIL (CIN 1) more likely to regress spontaneously and HSIL (CIN 2/CIN 3) more likely to persist or progress. The average time for progression of CIN 3 to invasive cancer is estimated to be 10 to 15 years.[2]

Recommended Related to Cancer

What is Prevention?

Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. In 2014, about 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. In addition to the physical problems and emotional distress caused by cancer, the high costs of care are also a burden to patients, their families, and to the public. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer is lowered. Hopefully, this will reduce the burden of cancer and lower the number of deaths caused by cancer. Cancer...

Read the What is Prevention? article > >

The incidence of cervical cancer has decreased dramatically with the advent and widespread adoption of screening via gynecological examinations and Pap smears (refer to the PDQ summary on Cervical Cancer Screening for more information). Regular screening, however, is associated with large numbers of diagnostic procedures to evaluate abnormal tests, and the treatment of low-grade lesions may adversely affect subsequent fertility and pregnancy. Prevention of cancer may be more efficient, with fewer adverse consequences.

Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection,[3,4] which is transmitted during sexual activity. Therefore, cervical cancer is seen more frequently in women with sexual activity at an early age and with multiple partners. Barrier contraception and/or spermicidal gels may offer some protection (refer to the Human Papillomavirus section of this summary for more information).

Cigarette smoking or exposure to environmental smoke is also associated with increased risk among HPV-infected women,[5] suggesting that components of tobacco are promoters of abnormal growth of viral-infected cells.


  1. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2014. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2014. Available online. Last accessed May 21, 2014.
  2. Holowaty P, Miller AB, Rohan T, et al.: Natural history of dysplasia of the uterine cervix. J Natl Cancer Inst 91 (3): 252-8, 1999.
  3. zur Hausen H, de Villiers EM: Human papillomaviruses. Annu Rev Microbiol 48: 427-47, 1994.
  4. Schiffman MH, Bauer HM, Hoover RN, et al.: Epidemiologic evidence showing that human papillomavirus infection causes most cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. J Natl Cancer Inst 85 (12): 958-64, 1993.
  5. Ho GY, Kadish AS, Burk RD, et al.: HPV 16 and cigarette smoking as risk factors for high-grade cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia. Int J Cancer 78 (3): 281-5, 1998.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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