Overall cervical cancer rates declining, but still higher for Indigenous women

Successful early detection and treatment have contributed to a decline in the incidence of cervical cancer, but there is still room for improvement, particularly for younger and Indigenous women, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Cervical Screening in Australia 2002-2003, the seventh annual report on the National Cervical Screening Program, found that 3,382,825 women (60.7% of those eligible) were screened in Australia for pre-cancerous changes from January 2002 to December 2003.

Across all age groups there were 735 new cases of cervical cancer detected in Australia in 2001, a sharp decline from 1,089 in 1991 when organised screening started.

During this same period the number of deaths also declined from 329 to 262.

Cervical cancer is now the 18th most common cause of cancer death in women.

Successful early treatment of high-grade abnormalities has contributed to the decline, with the incidence of cervical cancer among women in the screening target age range (20-69 years) falling from 17.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 9.5 per 100,000 in 2001.

'It was pleasing to see there were improvements in the screening participation rates for older women (45-69 years). Screening is particularly important for them because they experience a relatively higher incidence of cervical cancer than younger women.

'Unfortunately, there was a decline in participation among younger women (20-44 years),' Ms Markey said.

While there is room for improvement in overall screening participation, this is particularly important for Indigenous women who experience higher incidence of cervical cancer than other Australian women in Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia (the only jurisdictions for which adequate data were available).

Cervical cancer was also responsible for mortality rates in Indigenous women that were almost five times higher than that for other Australian women.

25 November 2005

Further information:Ms Janet Markey, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1053, or Mob. 0407 915 851
Chris Stevenson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1041

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.