Each year, cervical cancer affects more than half a million people worldwide and one person dies every two minutes. This is one of the biggest threats to the health of women we know. It is also quite in our power to eliminate.
Australian researchers now hang this carrot in front of the world. Their latest findings suggest that the goal of the urgent appeal launched by the World Health Organization for the global elimination of cervical cancer is well within our grasp.
According to the authors, if one managed to generalize immunization coverage and expand cervical screening from next year, this cancer could be eliminated in 149 of the 181 countries at the most. late at the turn of the century.
With the help of dynamic models and high quality data provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the authors predict that these measures will prevent up to 13.4 million cases of cancer of the cervix in 50 years (2069).
"More than two-thirds of the cases averted would be in low- or middle-developing countries, such as India, Nigeria, and Malawi, where access to HPV vaccine or cancer screening The uterine cervix was until now limited, "says lead author Karen Canfell, a cancer epidemiologist at the Cancer Council in Sydney, Australia.
The carrot is juicy, but the stick could move us faster. Due to population growth and aging, the number of cervical cancer cases is expected to increase from 600,000 per year in 2020 to 1.3 million per year in 2069.
The burden of cervical cancer does not fall equally. Today, about 85% of cervical cancer cases occur in less developed regions, in part because screening rates and vaccination rates are considerably lower.
The new study reveals that if we do not develop these prevention programs, more than 44 million women worldwide will be diagnosed with cervical cancer over the next 50 years. Of these, about two-thirds are likely to be fatal, resulting in 15 million deaths.
"Our challenge is to ensure that all girls in the world are vaccinated against HPV and that every woman over the age of 30 is screened and treated for precancerous lesions," said the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). 39, last year.
Australia is about to show the rest of the world how to do it. Its current national prevention program works exceptionally well, so much so that the authors believe that the case rate in the country could be below the elimination threshold (4 in 100,000) in just nine years.
Other high-income countries, such as the United States, Finland, the United Kingdom and Canada, could achieve the same results within 25 to 40 years. Considering that countries considered less developed – such as Ethiopia, Haiti and Papua New Guinea – could take a few more decades.
Yet, one region of the world is so late that it needs more time to catch up. Even though prevention programs are rapidly expanded, the authors predict that no country in Africa will be able to eliminate cervical cancer by 2100.
It just shows how much work remains to be done and how much we risk losing if we do not act quickly – but also that the tools to save millions of lives are in our hands.
"The WHO's call for action offers a huge opportunity to increase the level of investment in proven interventions against cervical cancer in the world." the world's poorest countries, "said Canfell.
"If these interventions are not adopted, millions of preventable premature deaths will be avoided."
This study was published in Lancet Oncology.