World Cancer Day: action for protection against cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is among the most common types of cancer affecting women in the WHO European Region, with 69 000 new cases and 30 000 deaths estimated for 2018 alone. Yet unlike most other types of cancer, it is vaccine-preventable.

On World Cancer Day, WHO/Europe aims to raise awareness that timely vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) in combination with regular screening for cervical cancer is the best way to protect girls’ futures from this tragic disease.

Success in controlling cervical cancer requires action by individuals, health-care professionals and policy-makers at national and global levels to ensure that everyone has easy access to the facts, the vaccines and the screening they need.

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Cervical cancer hits the developing world hard

Cervical cancer is one of the deadliest, yet most easily prevented, forms of cancer for women, causing over 270,000 deaths a year, 85% of which occur in developing countries.

It is estimated that over one million women worldwide are currently living with cervical cancer and the majority of these have no access to health services for prevention, curative treatment or palliative care.

A new publication from WHO, “Comprehensive cervical cancer control: a guide to essential practice” includes the following guidance to make cancer prevention more affordable for struggling health systems:

  • Vaccinate 9 to 13-year-old girls with two doses of HPV vaccine, rather than the current 3-dose schedule as it has proved to be just as effective
  • Use HPV tests to screen women for cervical cancer prevention as this will reduce the frequency of screening
  • Communicate with a wider audience, including adolescents, parents, educators, leaders and people working at all levels of the health system, to reach women throughout their lives

The guide also highlights the importance of addressing gender discrimination and other inequities related to wealth, class, education, religion and ethnicity in the design of health policies and programmes.

To read the full guide, click here on