According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 528,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide in 2012, and 266,000 women died from the disease. By 2035, the WHO projects that those numbers will climb to more than 756,000 and 416,000, respectively.
The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread through sexual activity. “It’s a common infection and in about 90% of women who have HPV, their body will clear the virus on its own but in 10% of women, the infections don’t clear up and they can turn into cervical cancer,” Cortessis says.
Cervical cancer rates are declining in the United States, due to greater use of the HPV vaccine and access to screening technology. “But there are still epidemics going on in most parts of the world where women don’t have regular access to screenings — those ladies stand to benefit most from this,” Cortessis says. Because the studies included women who had IUDs before the HPV vaccine was widely available, Cortessis says, these findings could be most important for women who are unvaccinated, over 30 years old, and live in low-resource countries.