(Effect of screening on incidence of and mortality from cancer of cervix in England: evaluation based on routinely collected statistics)
The large rise in the number of women having smear tests has reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer in England by more than one third (35 per cent) claim researchers in this week's BMJ. Dr Mike Quinn and colleagues from the Office of National Statistics report that the coverage of women attending for a smear test has doubled to 85 per cent following the introduction of a national call and recall system in 1988.
Screening for cervical cancer began in Britain in the 1960s, but for over 20 years had little effect on mortality, say the authors. From 1950 to 1987, total mortality from cervical cancer fell steadily by just over 1.5 per cent each year (from 2,500 deaths in 1950 to 1,800 deaths in 1987). The rate of fall then trebled and by 1997 the number of deaths was 1,150. These deaths represented two per cent of all cancer deaths in women and 0.4 per cent of all deaths in women say the authors.
Quinn et al also report that screening might have prevented 800 deaths from cervical cancer in 1997 in women aged 25-54. The reduction was estimated by comparing the projected and actual mortality. Reductions in mortality over the last 40 years in women aged over 54 years, however, are not related to the screening programme, say the authors, as few of these women would have been screened.
Dr Mike Quinn, Director, National Cancer Registration Bureau, Office for National Statistics, Demography and Health Division, London firstname.lastname@example.org