BETHESDA, Md--Of the 4,900 US deaths each year from cervical cancer,
virtually all could have been prevented by routine Pap smears,
and nearly all cases could be prevented by practicing safe sex
to avoid infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a panel
of independent experts appointed by the NIH said in a consensus
The statement was developed at the 3-day Consensus Development
Conference on Cervical Cancer, sponsored by the National Cancer
Institute and the NIH's Office of Medical Applications of Research.
The panel found that about half of the 15,700 US women diagnosed
with cervical cancer each year have never had a Pap test. Those
least likely to be screened include older women, the uninsured,
ethnic minorities, and the poor, especially in rural areas.
The panel called cervical cancer "the first major solid tumor
to have been shown to be virally induced in essentially every
case. HPV DNA is found in virtually all cervical carcinomas and
precursor lesions worldwide."
Detecting the Preinvasive Stage
The report went on to say that "the majority of these cancers
go through a preinvasive stage that can be detected in the early
stage by a Pap smear and treated with nearly uniform success and
the retention of fertility."
Because HPV is sexually transmitted, the panel said that adolescents
should be encouraged to delay onset of sexual intercourse and
to use barrier methods of contraceptives if they are sexually
active. The committee also advised the development of effective
prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines against HPV.