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Cervical Cancer Deaths Falling, But Blacks Still at Greatest Risk

April 20, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ Black women are more likely than white women to undergo testing for cervical cancer, but their death rate is more than twice as high, federal health researchers say.

Annual cervical cancer death rates in the United States declined from 4.2 deaths per 100,000 women in 1980 to 3.4 in 1987, the national Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday.

But although the rate among black women fell from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1980 to 7.6 in 1987, that remains more than twice the white rate, which dropped from 3.6 to 2.9.

The racial difference in cervical cancer rates is ″substantial and persistent,″ the Atlanta-based CDC said.

The CDC attributed the disparity in death rates to generally lower socioeconomic status among blacks and a higher incidence rate of cervical cancer.

The racial disparity comes as preliminary CDC reports indicate that black women are actually more likely than whites to undergo cancer-screening Pap tests.

″A higher proportion of black women ... report having been screened,″ the CDC said, citing a yet unpublished study. Further details are not yet available, CDC researchers said Thursday.

Lower screening rates for black women in previous years may be contributing now to higher death rates in older black women, said CDC cancer researcher Eddas Bennett.

″Previously, black women were screened less frequently than white women, and it takes some years for it to catch up (in decreased deaths),″ she said.

But, the CDC said, ″for younger black women who were screened more frequently than their white counterparts, disparities in follow-up and treatment may have contributed to excess cervical cancer mortality.″

″If you’re screened, it often comes down to a question of whether you actually received the appropriate follow-up (treatment),″ Bennett said.

Overall, the CDC said, deaths from cervical cancer in the United States dropped 11 percent in seven years, from 5,537 in 1980 to 4,951 in 1987, the latest year for which detailed reports are available.

″That’s primarily from the increased use of screening,″ Bennett said.

Virtually all cervical cancer deaths are preventable with early detection - chiefly through Pap test screening - and treatment when necessary, the CDC said.

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