Cervical cancer death rate higher than experts thought – especially for black women

Cervical cancer cells

Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

Cervical cancer cells

A new study says the death rate from cervical cancer in the United States is higher than experts thought – particularly for black women.

The medical journal Cancer on Monday published the study, which said the rate black American women are dying from the disease is akin to that of women in many poor developing nations.

Previously, the mortality rate was 5.7 per 100,000 black women and 3.2 per 100,000 white women, the study said. However, after researchers excluded women who have had a hysterectomy – and thus no chance of developing the disease – from the numbers, the mortality rate was 10.1 per 100,000 black women and 4.7 per 100,000 white women, according to the study.

Experts say what is especially disturbing is that cervical cancer is largely preventable through screenings.

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“This shows that our disparities are even worse than we feared,” said Dr. Kathleen M. Schmeler, an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“We have screenings that are great, but many women in America are not getting them.”

Schmeler told the New York Times that repealing the Affordable Care Act could make matters worse because it covers screenings. The repeal also could result in the closing of family planning clinics that perform the test, she said.

Some doctors said the racial disparity could reflect unequal access to screening and insurance coverage.

Cervical cancer is caused, in most cases, by the virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. It can be transmitted through sexual contact. There is a vaccine for women age 26 and younger.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.