Cervical cancer, which can be prevented by a vaccine or detected early by Pap smears, kills 33,000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean a year, according to a new study.
Better screening and an affordable vaccine for girls could reduce the deaths, which could increase to 70,000 a year by 2030 if nothing is done, the authors said.
The study, sponsored by the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, compiled 15 years of research. It is the first major assessment of the effects of the human papillomavirus in the region.
The virus, which is sexually transmitted and causes most cases of cervical cancer, infects 20 percent to 30 percent of young women in the region, as well as 20 percent of young men.
Because too few cases are detected early, it is a common cause of cancer death. In the United States, where Pap smears are a routine part of medical care paid for by health insurance, just 2.5 percent of all cancer deaths among women are cervical cancer. In Haiti, 49 percent are. The countries with the highest rates were Haiti, Bolivia, Paraguay, Belize, Peru, Guyana, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela.
A vaccine that prevents infection by the most dangerous strains of the virus costs $360 in the United States, far more than the health systems of most Latin American countries can afford.