Cervical cancer screening in Switzerland: cross-sectional trends (1992–2012) in social inequalities

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Background: Incidence and mortality of cervical cancer declined thanks to Pap smear screening. However cervical cancer screening (CCS) inequalities are documented, including in high income countries. This population-based study aims to assess the importance and 20-year trends of CCS inequalities in Switzerland, where healthcare costs and medical coverage are among the highest in the world. Methods: We analyzed data from five waves of the population-based Swiss Health Interview Survey (SHIS) covering the period 1992–2012. Multivariable Poisson regression were used to estimate weighted prevalence ratios (PR) of CCS and 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) adjusting for socio-economic, socio-demographic characteristics, family status, health status, and use of healthcare. Results: The study included 32’651 women aged between 20 and 70 years old. Between 1992 and 2012, rates of CCS over the past 3 years fluctuated between 71.7 and 79.6% (adjusted P < 0.001). Lower CCS was observed among women with low education, low income, those having limited emotional support, who were non-Swiss, single, older, living in non-metropolitan area or in the French-speaking region, overweight. Over the analyzed period, differences in CCS across age groups diminished while rates among women who visited a GP over the previous year, versus those who did not, increased. Conclusions: While important changes occurred in screening recommendations and in social circumstances of the targeted population, CCS rates remained fairly stable in Switzerland between 1992 and 2012. At the same time, inequalities in CCS persisted over that period.

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