Today—World Cancer Day—the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a draft of a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. According to the WHO, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. The organization estimates that in 2018, 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, 311,000 of which died from the disease.
According to the WHO, cervical cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death among women in 42 countries, which are mostly low-income and lower-middle-income countries; they estimate that nine in 10 cervical cancer deaths occur in these countries. In a news release from the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus—WHO Director-General—said, “it doesn’t have to be this way. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.”
The WHO suggests that this strategy could prevent 74 million cervical cancer cases in the next 100 years and save the lives of more than 62 million girls and women. The global targets established by this analysis are 90% vaccination, 70% screening, and 90% treatment by 2030. Vaccinating girls before age 15 is critical to building a foundation for eradicating cervical cancer. Additionally, one target cannot be successful without another—all elements of the proposed strategy are vital to its success. The WHO says that these efforts must be “aligned and accelerated” to eliminate the threat of cervical cancer as a public health problem. According to the WHO, cervical cancer will be successfully eliminated as a public health problem “when all countries reach an incidence rate of fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 women.” They estimate that this is possible within the lifetime of today’s young girls.
The WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Modelling Consortium (CCEMC) published these estimates online in The Lancet last week. According to the study, this is the first analysis to estimate how many women’s lives could be saved by the implementation of a global strategy. This video from the WHO illustrates the modeling of three scenarios across the globe: a girls-only HPV vaccination, girls-only vaccination with one-lifetime screening, and girls-only vaccination with two-lifetime screenings.
If no action is taken, the WHO estimates that cervical cancer deaths will rise by 50% by 2030. The Draft Global Strategy will be up for approval by the World Health Assembly in May.