Cervical cancer: epidemiology, prevention and the role of human papillomavirus infection

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ORGANIZED SCREENING HAS CONTRIBUTED TO A DECLINE in cervical cancer incidence and mortality over the past 50 years. However, women in developing countries are yet to profit extensively from the benefits of screening programs, and recent trends show a resurgence of the disease in developed countries. The past 2 decades have witnessed substantial progress in our understanding of the natural history of cervical cancer and in major treatment advances. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is now recognized as the main cause of cervical cancer, the role of coexisting factors is better understood, a new cytology reporting terminology has improved diagnosis and management of precursor lesions, and specific treatment protocols have increased survival among patients with early or advanced disease. Current research has focused on the determinants of infection with oncogenic HPV types, the assessment of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines and the development of screening strategies incorporating HPV testing and other methods as adjunct to cytology. These are fundamental stepping stones for the implementation of effective public health programs aimed at the control of cervical cancer.

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