A National Institute of Health panel concluded Wednesday that almost all of the 5,000 women who die of cervical cancer each year could be spared by routine Pap smears and safe sex. Second to breast cancer as the most common malignancy, cervical cancer claims 15,700 new cases in the U.S. each year. The panel concluded that “use of the Pap smear is effective in reducing morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer,” and that the cancer could be eradicated if women got the test done yearly.
The panel also found that safe sex can decrease rates of cervical cancer, as virtually all cases are related to infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. The committee said that adolescent females who engage in sexual activity at an early age are more likely to develop cervical cancer from HPV than those who wait. Other risk factors include smoking, oral contraceptive use, and contracting other sexually transmitted diseases.