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Cervical cancer incidence statistics

Incidence statistics for cervical cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data on lifetime risk, geography, prevalence and morphology. The ICD code for cervical cancer is ICD-10 C53.

The latest incidence statistics available for cervical cancer in the UK are 2010. Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

By country in the UK

Cervical cancer is the 12th most common cancer among women females in the UK (2010), accounting for around 2% of all new cases of cancer in females.1-4

In 2010, there were 2,851 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK (Table 1.1). The crude incidence rate shows that there are around 9 new cervical cancer cases for every 100,000 females in the UK.

The European age-standardised incidence rates (AS rates) are significantly higher in Scotland compared with England and Wales (Table 1.1).1-4 The rates do not differ significantly between the other countries.1-4

Table 1.1: Cervical Cancer (C53), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, Females, UK, 2010 

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Cases 2,305 131 327 88 2,851
Crude Rate 8.7 8.5 12.1 9.6 9.0
AS Rate 8.1 8.3 11.3 9.2 8.4
AS Rate - 95% LCL 7.8 6.9 10.1 7.3 8.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 8.5 9.8 12.5 11.1 8.8

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95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS Rate

There was considerable geographical variation in cervical cancer incidence rates across the UK in the 1990s, with the highest rates in the north of England and Scotland, and the lowest rates in London, the east and south-east of England.5 The latest analysis of cervical cancer incidence rates throughout the UK also reports significant variation between cancer networks whereby the highest rate is more than double that of the lowest rate, with the highest rates are generally in Scotland, Wales, the midlands and north of England, and the lowest rates in the south and east of England.6-8

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13

 

By age

Cervical cancer incidence is related to age, but it is unusual in that it does not follow the same pattern of increasing incidence with age seen for most cancers (Figure 1.1).1-4 There are two peaks in the age-specific incidence rates: the first in women aged 30-34 (at 21 per 100,000 women) and the second in women aged 80-84 (at 13 per 100,000 women). The earlier peak is related to many women becoming sexually active in their late teens/early 20s,9,10 giving rise to an increase in human papilloma virus (HPV) infections - a necessary cause of cervical cancer.11 The second smaller peak is due to increasing cancer incidence with age. In the UK between 2008 and 2010, an average of 20% of cervical cancer cases were diagnosed in women aged 65 years and over.

Over three-quarters (78%) of cervical cancer cases occur in 25-64 year olds. Women in England and Northern Ireland are currently offered cervical cancer screening at three to five year intervals between ages 25 and 64.12,13 For women in Wales, screening is offered between the ages of 20 and 64 every three years.14 In Scotland, women are offered screening every three years between the ages of 20 and 60.15

Figure 1.1: Cervical Cancer (C53), Average Number of New Cases Per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates, Females, UK, 2008-2010  

cases_crude_cervix.swf

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section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13

 

Trends over time

Cervical cancer incidence rates have decreased overall in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.2).1-3 European AS incidence rates decreased by 49% from their peak in 1985-1987 (at 16 cases per 100,000 females) to the lowest rate in 2003-2005 (at 8 per 100,000 females). Rates then began to plateau in the 2000s. The dramatic decrease in rates since the late 1980s follows improvements to the national NHS cervical screening programme (such as the call-recall system) in the UK in 1988. Cervical screening detects and treats abnormal cells, and so can help prevent many cases of cervical cancer from ever developing.8

Figure 1.2: Cervical Cancer (C53): European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Females, Great Britain, 1975-2010

inc_asr_gb_cervix.swf

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Cervical cancer trends for the UK are shown in Figure 1.3.1-4  Over the last decade (between 1999-2001 and 2008-2010), the European AS incidence rates have remained relatively stable. However, since 2002-2004, the incidence rate has increased by 10% (from 8 per 100,000 females in 2002-2004 to 9 in 2008-2010). Between 2008 and 2009 there was a statistically significant increase in the AS incidence rate of 17% for all ages in the UK (Figure 1.3).1-4

Figure 1.3: Cervical Cancer (C53), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Females, UK, 1993-2010 

inc_asr_uk_cervix.swf

Download this chart XLS (45KB) PPT (126KB) PDF (37KB)

Cervical cancer incidence rates show varying trends by age in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.4).1-3 Since the introduction of the changes to the national NHS cervical screening programme in the late 1980s, incidence rates have decreased overall for all women in the age groups aged 35 and over. The largest decreases have been in women aged 50-64 and 65-79, with European AS incidence rates decreasing by 64% and 65%, respectively, between 1985-1987 and 2008-2010. Rates for women in the age groups 35-49 and 80+ both decreased by 43% over the same period.

Whilst incidence rates for women aged 25-34 decreased by 34% between 1985-1987 and 2000-2002, rates have since increased by 60% in this age group (between 2000-2002 and 2008-2010). The increase in cervical cancer incidence rates in younger women is thought to be unrelated to the change in screening policy in England in 2004, when the cervical screening age was increased from 20 to 25.16 Rather, the rise in rates is more likely to be related to changes in HPV infection rates, which may have increased since the proportion of women having sexual intercourse before the age of 16 has risen in recent decades.8,9 Changes in smoking behaviour in women born since the 1970s may also have contributed to the rise in incidence.8

Figure 1.4: Cervical Cancer (C53), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates by Age, Females, Great Britain, 1975-2010 

inc_asr_age_cervix.swf

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Between 2008 and 2009 in the UK, cervical cancer incidence rates statistically significantly increased for women aged 25-34, with rates increasing by 29% for women aged 25-29 and 24% for women aged 30-34 (Figure 1.5).1-4 Whilst the 20-24 age group also showed a large increase in rates (of more than 50%), it was based on small numbers of women and was not statistically significant. The percentage change in age-specific incidence rates was not significant for any of the other age groups.  

It has been suggested that the increase in rates for women aged 25-34 is related to the cervical cancer diagnosis of Big Brother contestant Jade Goody in 2008 and her death in 2009, which raised awareness of the disease and contributed to a subsequent increase in women aged under 35 attending cervical screening or visiting their doctor.17,18 In 2009, a sharp increase in screening coverage of around 3% occurred in women aged under 35 in England, and in 2010 coverage increased again in this age group by around 1.5%.19

 

Figure 1.5: Cervical Cancer (C53), Percentage Change in Age-Specific Incidence Rates, Females, UK, 2008 to 2009

inc_crudepc_age_cervix.swf

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*Statistically significant difference between 2008 and 2009

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13

Lifetime risk

The lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer in the UK is estimated to be 1 in 134 (calculated using 2008 data).20

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 01/06/12

By morphology

It has been estimated that around two thirds of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and around 15% are adenocarcinoma (with nearly all of the remainder of cases being registered as poorly specified).21-23 An analysis of cervical cancer incidence in Sweden has shown that an early age peak at 35-39 years is apparent for both SCC and adenocarcinoma.24

A study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has reported an increase in adenocarcinoma and a downward trend in SCC in many countries worldwide.25,26

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 01/06/12

 

In Europe and worldwide

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women and the seventh most common overall (in both sexes combined). It is estimated to be responsible for 530,000 new cases of cancer in 2008 (nearly one in ten (9%) of all cancers diagnosed in women). Cervical cancer incidence rates are lowest in Western Asia and highest in Eastern Africa, with a seven-fold variation in World AS incidence rates between the regions of the world (Figure 1.6).25

Figure 1.6: Cervical Cancer (C53), World Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Females, World Regions, 2008 Estimates

world_inc_cervix.swf

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Much of the variation in incidence can be attributed to geographical differences in population prevalence of HPV, and other co-factors that modify risk in HPV-infected women such as oral contraceptive use and smoking (see Risk Factors section). Screening programmes have substantially reduced incidence and mortality rates in Western countries, whereas HPV vaccination offers a promising option for lowering disease burden in the developing world.26,27

Within the 27 countries of the European Union (EU-27), the highest cervical cancer European AS incidence rates are estimated to be in Romania (29 cases per 100,000 women), and the lowest rates are estimated to be in Malta (2.9 female cases per 100,000) (Figure 1.7).28

Figure 1.7: Cervical cancer (C53), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, Females, EU-27 Countries, 2008 Estimates

EU27_inc_cervix.swf

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UK cervical cancer incidence rates are estimated to be the 18th highest in Europe (EU-27).

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 01/06/12

Prevalence

Prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a given time point. Some patients will have been cured of their disease and others will not.

In the UK around 19,000 women were still alive at the end of 2006, up to ten years after being diagnosed with cervical cancer (Table 1.2).29

Table 1.2: Cervical Cancer (C53), One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence, Females, UK, 31st December 2006

1 Year Prevalence 5 Year Prevalence 10 Year Prevalence
Female 2,517 10,125 19,046

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Worldwide, it is estimated that there were more than 1.55 million women still alive in 2008, up to five years after their diagnosis.25

section reviewed 18/10/13
section updated 18/10/13

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References for cervical cancer incidence

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, June 2012. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/search/index.html?newquery=cancer+registrations.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here:http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp.
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, April 2012. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242pid=59080.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, October 2012. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerData/OnlineStatistics/.
  5. Quinn M, Wood H, Cooper N, Rowan S, eds. Cancer Atlas of the United Kingdom and Ireland 1991–2000. Studies on Medical and Population Subjects No. 68. London: ONS; 2005.
  6. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
  7. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cancer e-Atlas. Accessed April 2013.
  8. Trent Cancer Registry. Profile of Cervical Cancer in England Incidence: Mortality and Survival. Sheffield: Trent Cancer Registery/NHS Cancer Screening Programmes; 2012.
  9. Foley G, Alston R, Geraci M, et al. Increasing rates of cervical cancer in young women in England: an analysis of national data 1982-2006. Br J Cancer 2011;105(1):177-84.
  10. Tripp J, Viner R. Sexual health, contraception, and teenage pregnancy. BMJ 2005;330(7491):590–593.
  11. Bosch FX, Lorincz A, Muñoz N, et al. The causal relation between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. Journal of clinical pathology 2002; 55(4):244-265.
  12. NHS Screening programme.
  13. Northern Ireland Cervical Screening Programme.
  14. Cervical Screening Wales.
  15. Scottish Cervical Screening Programme.
  16. Patel A, Galaal K, Burnley C, et al. Cervical cancer incidence in young women: a historical and geographic controlled UK regional population study. Br J Cancer 2012 22;106(11):1753-9.
  17. Lancucki L, Sasieni P, Patnick J, et al. The impact of Jade Goody's diagnosis and death on the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. J Med Screen 2012;19(2):89-93.
  18. NHS Cancer Screening Programmes. Audit of invasive cervical cancer, National report 2007-2011. May 2012.
  19. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cervical Cancer Incidence and Screening Coverage. London: NCIN; 2011.
  20. Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team. Statistics on the risk of developing cancer, by cancer type and age. Calculated using 2008 data for the UK using the ‘Adjusted for Multiple Primaries (AMP)’ method (Sasieni PD, Shelton J, Ormiston-Smith N, et al. What is the lifetime risk of developing cancer?: The effect of adjusting for multiple primaries. Br J Cancer, 2011. 105(3): 460-5). http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/incidence/risk/.
  21. Vizcaino AP, Moreno V, Bosch FX, et al. International Trends in Incidence of Cervical Cancer: II Squamous-cell Carcinoma. Int J Cancer 2000;86(3):429-435.
  22. Vizcaino AP, Moreno V, Bosch FX. International trends in the incidence of Cervical Cancer: Adenocarcinoma and Adenosquamous cell Carcinomas. International Journal of Cancer 1998;75(4):536-545.
  23. Quinn M, Babb P, Brock A, et al. Cancer Trends in England & Wales 1950-1999. London: Office for National Statistics; 2001.
  24. Hemminki K, Li X, Mutanen P. Age-incidence relationships and time trends in cervical cancer in Sweden. European Journal of Epidemiology 2001;17(4):323-8.
  25. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No.10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2010. Available from http://globocan.iarc.fr.
  26. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). World Cancer Report 2008. Lyon: IARC; 2008.
  27. Peto J, Gilham C, Fletcher O, et al. The cervical cancer epidemic that screening has prevented in the UK. Lancet 2004;364(9430):249-56.
  28. European Age-Standardised rates calculated by the Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team, 2011, using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC, version 1.2. http://globocan.iarc.fr.
  29. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). One, five and ten-year cancer prevalence. London: NCIN; 2010.
Updated: 18 October 2013