Cervical cancer could soon be a disease of the past

Researchers estimated how many new cases of cervical cancer would emerge if more people are regularly screened or vaccinated.

The United States is on track to quash cervical cancer as a public health problem within two to three decades, according to a new report published February 10 in The Lancet Public Health.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancers. The disease is most often caused by the human papillomavirus virus, a type of sexually transmitted infection. With the advent of a vaccine that prevents the infection, which first came out in 2006, as well as regular screening to detect the HPV virus or abnormal cells that have not yet become cancerous, cervical cancer has become highly preventable. For the new analysis, researchers set out to estimate how many new cases of cervical cancer would emerge if more people are regularly screened or vaccinated. 

RELATED: Take a look at the products that give back for breast cancer research: 

Products that give back for breast cancer research
See Gallery
Products that give back for breast cancer research

Gorjana Power Gemstone Bracelet for Compassion, $38

Gorjana will be donating 50 percent of proceeds from the Power Gemstone Bracelet to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


Limited Edition Rothy's, $145

In addition to donating $50,000 to BCRF, Rothy's is spreading the love this October by gifting a select limited edition pink shoes to survivors and supporters with the purchase of eligible shoes. 

"At Rothy's, we're just as dedicated to sustainability as we are to supporting women. We're thrilled to be an official partner with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which works tirelessly to support lifesaving research. Last year we asked our customers to tell us about women in their life who have been impacted by breast cancer, and we were incredibly moved by the responses we received. We're looking forward to reading more of those special words this year." - Rothy's VP of Marketing, Elie Donahue


Lilly Pulitzer Pinking Positive Tote, $124

As a direct contribution in support of this Print with Purpose collection, the BCRF will receive a $22,000 donation from Lilly Pulitzer.


Jack Rogers Georgica Sandal, $128

Jack Rogers will be donating 10% of proceeds from the Georgica sandal in blush and magenta to the Breast Cancer Association throughout October. 


AERIN Rose Lip Conditioner & Amber Musk Rollerball Set, $50

100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


Kendra Scott Metastatic Breast Cancer Necklace Charm Set In Rose Gold, $110

50 percent of the proceeds from every purchase of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Charm Necklace Set will support our Legacy Retreat through Inheritance of Hope for families with a parent battling metastatic breast cancer.


Vineyard Vines 2019 Breast Cancer Awareness Long-Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt, $48

20 percent of all net proceeds will be donated to Bright Pink. 


Bobbi Brown 2-Pc. Proud To Be Pink Lip Color Set, $45

Bobbi Brown Cosmetics will donate $24.00 from the purchase of each Proud to Be Pink Lip Color Duo to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF) from 9/9/19 to 6/30/20.


Origins 2-Pc. Breast Cancer Awareness Limited Edition Blooming Bold Lipstick Set, $20

In support of The Estee Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Campaign, Origins will donate 100 percent of the purchase price of this Limited Edition Blooming Bold Lipstick Set.


True Religion Breast Cancer Awareness Tie Dye Sweatshirt, $99

15 percent of proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.


Not Today, Cancer set, $52

10 percent of profits from sales of this set support the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), who envisions “A world where no young adult faces breast cancer alone." 


Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Breast Cancer Awareness Limited Edition Eau de Parfum, $120

Donna Karan Cosmetics will donate 20 percent of the SRP from the sale of this product to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Morganite and 18K Rose Gold, $495

David Yurman is partnering with BCRF this October, launching an exclusive bracelet with 20% of proceeds going towards the non-profit.


M. Gemi x Fuck Cancer Palestra, $228

15 percent of proceeds from the shoes, which are sold out now but are available for pre-order, will be donated to the organization Fuck Cancer. 100 percent of proceeds from the laces will also be donated.


Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair with Pink Ribbon Bracelet, $100

With each purchase of this product, Estée Lauder will donate 20 percent of the suggested retail price to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


Pura Vida Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet, $32

10 percent of net sales will be donated to Boarding for Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that advocates for early detection and empowers young people to live a healthier lifestyle.


Unode50 Zen Think Pink Bracelet, $140

20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this bracelet will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Group (GEICAM) to support its efforts in studying breast cancer.


La Mer The Breast Cancer Campaign Cleansing Micellar Water, $55

La Mer will donate 30 percent from the purchase price of this limited edition, travel-size Cleansing Micellar Water with a maximum donation of $53,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


Aerie LIMITED-EDITION MOVE SPORTS BRA, $20.97 (orig. $34.95)

100% of US sales benefit Bright Pink®, a non-profit dedicated to prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women.

Saucony Women's With Love Kinvara 10, $120

From September 9th – October 31st 20% of the proceeds directly benefit the Dr. Susan Love Foundation and their research.


Brahmin SYDNEY BCA, $375

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Brahmin brought back a favorite pink collection with a portion of proceeds benefitting the National Breast Cancer Foundation during the month of October.


Ideology Breast Cancer Logo Leggings, $26.50

Now through October 31, 2019, Macy's will donate 20% of the sale price from this Ideology item to BCRF.


ghd gold® ink on pink styler, $199 

$10 from every sale from the ink on pink collection goes to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.



Activewear brand 686 is on a mission to board for breast cancer (literally!) with their Moonlight Jacket and will donate $18 from every jacket sold to BOARDING FOR BREAST CANCER (B4BC) a nonprofit foundation providing breast cancer education, prevention, and survivor support programs for young people. 


Native Peony & Jasmine Tea Deodorant, $10.00

On October 5th & October 6th, Native will donate $1 per bar of deodorant sold to Fuck Cancer’s Personal Ink (P.ink) a program, dedicated to empowering women to reclaim their bodies after mastectomies.


Lane Bryant LIVI Active Legging, $49.95

10 percent of each purchase goes to lifesaving research at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation! 


Venus ET Fleur Breast Cancer Awareness Collection, $500

During the month of October, customers can select any large round or large square pink suede box and pair with any pink flower and the brand will donate 20% of proceeds from to City of Hope, a world leader in the research and treatment of cancer.


Olay Limited Edition Regenerist Whip, $58.99

"We are donating 100 percent of US proceeds from this Regenerist Whip Pink Ribbon Face Moisturizer + Refill to benefit Bright Pink and their life-saving mission focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer."



20 percent of net proceeds from this purchase will help fight Breast Cancer.


Riley Versa bags, $50-$625

30 percent of all Riley Versa site-wide purchases (excluding the Sweat Pouch) will be donated to The Pink Agenda throughout the month of October.


“We found that, even without any new effort towards increasing vaccination or screening, we can achieve cervical cancer elimination…in roughly 20 years,” says Jane Kim, a professor of health decision science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. What’s more, she and her colleagues estimate, the disease could be eliminated 10 to 13 years sooner if people are screened more regularly.

“This study is really important because it says that if you implement screening and vaccination programs right now in 2020, that improvements in screening coverage would have a bigger impact on prevention of invasive cancer and associated death,” says Jennifer Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health who was not involved in the research. “These should be complementary prevention strategies, but this data is highlighting that we really need to make sure that we’re very vigilant, as we’re rolling out important prevention programs with vaccinations, that we ensure that screening continues.”

Last year, the World Health Organization published a strategy for how cervical cancer might be vanquished around the globe. By their standards, the disease will be considered eliminated as a public health problem when there are four or fewer new cases of cancer per 100,000 women each year. Kim and her colleagues wanted to figure out how best to meet this ambitious goal in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, since the HPV vaccine was introduced, the kinds of HPV infections that lead to cancer and genital warts have dropped by 86 percent among teen girls in the U.S. And among vaccinated women, cases of abnormal cervical cells caused by the kinds of HPV most often linked to cervical cancer have dropped by about 40 percent. Currently in the United States, there are about seven new cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women every year.

Kim and her colleagues used two mathematical models to investigate how quickly this incidence would drop under different scenarios in which screening, vaccination, or both were adopted more widely. Even if these prevention strategies aren’t scaled up, the two models estimated that the United States is on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2038 or 2046.

Currently, the HPV vaccine is recommended for all people between the ages of 11 and 26. The researchers estimated that, based on current vaccination rates, around 75 percent of girls will be vaccinated by age 26 and 62 percent of boys would be vaccinated by age 21. When the researchers predicted what would happen if this already impressive rate of vaccine coverage reached 90 percent, they saw little difference in the timeline for how quickly cervical cancer could be eliminated.

On the other hand, if 90 percent of adult women (aged 21 to 65) were regularly screened starting in 2020, the researchers predicted that the disease would be eliminated significantly sooner and that around 1,400 to 2,088 new cases of cervical cancer would be averted every year.

“Screening will have a more immediate impact because you are basically intervening on the disease process much closer to…when the disease would be developing,” Kim says. By contrast, the HPV vaccine prevents infections that can take 20 to 30 years to develop into cancer.

“We’re not saying that screening is more important than vaccination; they’re both critical to reducing the burden of disease,” Kim says. “They just happen at different time points.”

The team hopes that the findings will galvanize public health authorities to understand how important it is to invest in these preventative strategies, Emily Burger, a research scientist at the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and another coauthor of the new study, told Popular Science in an email. However, she warned, “Any changes to current practice, such as lower HPV vaccination uptake, could disrupt or delay our projections of the timing of cervical cancer elimination in the US.”

The findings indicate that targeting women who are infrequently or never screened will have the biggest impact on eliminating cervical cancer.

People who fall through the cracks for cervical cancer screening tend to have lower incomes or be uninsured, Smith says. Her research focuses on how to identify women who are missing out on screening and make it easier for them to access the tests.

One possible strategy that researchers in the United States and Europe are investigating is giving women kits with little brushes that they can use to collect samples for an HPV test in the privacy of their own homes. Smith and her colleagues have found that these tests are effective and that the majority of women who participated in their studies in North Carolina followed through on mailing their samples back for testing.

Preventing cervical cancer (and other diseases caused by HPV, including cancers of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat) also means making sure that people are knowledgeable about current screening and vaccine recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control offers guidelines on when to get vaccinated against HPV and how often to get screened. The agency’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program also provides free or low-cost screenings for people with low incomes or who are uninsured.

It’s also vital to follow up on any further diagnostic tests or treatment if your screens have abnormal results. “It’s only after completion of the whole screening process that you can prevent the disease,” Kim says. “We’ve had the luxury of really not seeing as many cases [of cervical cancer] as some of the other cancers…because we have screening options and now we have the HPV vaccination. But at the same time we can’t stop doing those things because the disease will come back.”

Read Full Story