Health disparities

New cervical cancer screening guidelines add sole HPV testing

Papilloma virus, HPV). It causes cervical cancer. Image taken with transmission electron microscopy.
Human Papilloma virus, (HPV). It causes cervical cancer. Image taken with transmission electron microscopy. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on Tuesday issued its latest recommendations for cervical cancer screening, which now say women 30 and older can drop the traditional Pap tests every 3 years in favor of testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) every 5 years, if they choose to.

Why it matters: There's been some debate in the medical field if Pap tests (also called cytology tests) should be dropped completely from the roster for women of that age group, as recent studies increasingly show HPV tests can be more sensitive and are valid for a longer period of time.

By the numbers: Inequality impacts U.S. cancer death rates

By addressing health disparities from socioeconomic issues that continue to be prevalent in the U.S., there could be an estimated 25% reduction in overall cancer death rates.


A north-south divide can be seen in this example of health disparities. From Siegel RL, Jemal A, Wender RC, et al (2018). Data: Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: The health care disparities caused by poverty, racism, unhealthy foods, lack of exercise, low-quality health care and lower education levels are creating "highly variable" outcomes in what is generally a 25-year decline in cancer death rates, Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, tells Axios.

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