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Int J Cancer. 1997 Apr 10;71(2):159-65.

International incidence rates of invasive cervical cancer before cytological screening.

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Department of Cancer Epidemiology, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.


Huge differences in incidence rates of invasive cervical cancer occur among populations. These differences reflect the influences of both etiological environmental factors and removal of precursor lesions detected upon screening. The purposes of this article are (i) to describe similarities and differences in the shapes and magnitudes of age-specific incidence rates of invasive cervical cancer before screening had an effect, (ii) to provide baseline data for further global study of screening effects, and (iii) to provide baseline incidence data for the design of optimal screening programs. To eliminate the impact of screening effects, we have selected age-specific incidence rates from times when and from populations in which screening was insignificant. The selected rates were suitably scaled and compared regarding age at onset of increase in incidence, age at peak incidence, and rate of subsequent decline. Despite a 16-fold difference in incidence rates, all curves had the same basic structure, with an increase to a peak followed by a decline or a plateau. Although all populations but one had an onset around age 25, 7 European countries showed an earlier peak age (mean = 46 vs. 59) and a more rapid decline after the peak than most other populations. The common basic shape of the age-specific incidence curve, overall, suggests a relatively similar development of invasive cervical cancer in different populations. These results illustrate the underlying similarities in the markedly different age-specific incidence rates of invasive cervical cancer. They also provide a basis for studying screening effects and for optimizing screening programs in specific geographic areas.

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