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More than 3.6 million women participated in cervical screening in 2009-2010, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cervical screening in Australia 2009-2010, provides information on the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP), which aims to reduce cervical cancer cases, as well as illness and death resulting from cervical cancer in Australia.

It shows that 57% of Australian women in the target age group (20-69) participated in the NCSP in 2009-2010, which is a decline from the previous 2-year reporting period 2007–2008, for which participation was 59%.

‘We found that participation generally increases with increasing socioeconomic status,’ said AIHW spokesperson Chris Sturrock.

‘Among women residing in the areas of lowest socioeconomic status, participation was 52%. In the areas of highest socioeconomic status, it was 63%.’  

Although participation has dropped, the detection of high-grade abnormalities remains high.

For every 1,000 women screened in 2010, 9 had a high-grade abnormality detected.

‘This kind of early detection allows treatment before possible progression to cancer,’ Ms Sturrock said.

The latest figures available on cervical cancer incidence and deaths show that there were 637 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Australia in 2008, and 131 women died from cervical cancer in 2007.

‘The good news is that incidence and mortality rates have both halved since the NCSP was introduced in 1991, and both are at an historic low,’ Ms Sturrock said.

‘One area of concern is the incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women which is twice that of non-Indigenous women, with the mortality rate 5 times as high.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 1 May 2012

Further information: Ms Chris Sturrock, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1118, mob. 0418 271 395

Full publication: Cervical screening in Australia 2009-2010