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Div. of Media Relations
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January 16, 2001
Contact: Kathryn Harben
(770) 488-5131
CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Press Release

CDC releases first cervical cancer detection rates by race and ethnicity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today the first race- and ethnic-specific rates of cervical cancer detection from its national screening program for low-income, uninsured women. The data were published in the January 2001 issue of "Cancer Causes and Control".

Among women receiving their first National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) -funded Papanicolau (Pap) test between 1991 and 1998, American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) women had the highest proportion of abnormal tests (4.4%), followed by African-Americans (3.2%), whites (3.0%), Hispanics (2.7%) and Asians/Pacific Islanders (A/PI) (1.9%). White women had the highest rate of serious cervical lesions detected by biopsy (9.9 per 1,000 Pap tests), followed by Hispanics (7.6), African-Americans (7.1), AI/ANs (6.7), and A/PIs (5.4).

American Indian or Alaska Native women were more likely than others to report never having had a prior Pap test, and African-American women were more likely not to receive follow-up after diagnosis of a serious cervical lesion.

"These data remind us that women of every race and ethnic group need access to the potentially life-saving benefits of regular cervical cancer screening," said James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "CDC is committed to continuing to work to make sure this happens."

Established in 1990, the screening and early detection program has grown from 8 states in 1991 to 50 states, 6 U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 12 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations in 2000. Since the program's inception through March 2000, more than 2.7 million breast and cervical cancer screening tests have been provided by the program to more than 1.7 million women.

A total of 912,688 women received 1,480,590 Pap tests. During the same period, the program diagnosed 39,456 cases of precancerous cervical conditions and 667 cases of invasive cervical cancer. The program also provides educational information to women and health care providers about the need for these life-saving screening tests.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers that affect women, but women still die unnecessarily because the cancer is often caught too late. In 2001, more than 4,600 women will die from cervical cancer.

"When women are screened regularly, precancerous lesions can be detected and removed before they become cancer, " said co-author Nancy C. Lee, MD, head of CDC's cancer prevention and control program.

Recognizing the value of screening and early detection in preventing unnecessary deaths, Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990. The Act authorized CDC to provide breast and cervical cancer screening services to older women, women with low incomes, and underserved women of racial and ethnic minority groups.

To learn more about CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, including eligibility requirements for free screening and treatment services, visit or call toll-free 1-888-842-6355.

CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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This page last reviewed January 16, 2001

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