According to the results of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer survivors have an increased risk of later developing other types of cancer, particularly if their cervical cancer was treated with radiation therapy. This increased risk persists for more than 40 years after the cervical cancer diagnosis.
In 2007, more than 11,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States. Worldwide, an estimated 231,000 women die of cervical cancer each year, with 80% of those deaths occurring among women in developing countries.
After the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer, women may be at increased risk of developing a second cancer. This increased risk may be the result of treatment for cervical cancer (particularly radiation therapy), or the result of risk factors for cervical cancer that also contribute to other cancers (such as infection with human papillomavirus or smoking).
To explore the long-term cancer risks of cervical cancer survivors, researchers evaluated information from cancer registries in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.
The study included more than 100,000 women with cervical cancer, some of whom had been followed for more than 40 years after their diagnosis. The cancer risk in these women was compared to the cancer risk in the general population.
• Cancer risk in the cervical cancer survivors was 30% higher than the cancer risk in the general population.
• When considering specific types of cancer, cervical cancer survivors were at increased risk of both HPV-related cancers (such as cancer of the oropharynx, female genital sites, and rectum/anus) as well as smoking-related cancers (such as lung, pancreas, and bladder).
• Women who had received radiation therapy for cervical cancer had an increased risk of cancer in organs close to the cervix (colon, rectum, bladder, ovary, and female genital sites). This risk persisted for more than 40 years after the initial radiation therapy.
• The risk of a second cancer appeared to be higher for women who were younger at the time of their cervical cancer diagnosis.
The long-term increase in cancer risk that follows cervical cancer – particularly cervical cancer treated with radiation therapy – highlights the importance of cancer screening in this group of women.
1.Cancer Facts and Figures 2007. American Cancer Society Web site. Available at: American Cancer Society. (Accessed November 1, 2007).
2.Sankaranarayanan R, Budukh AM, Rajkumar R. Effective screening programmes for cervical cancer in low- and middle-income developing countries. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2001;79:954-962.
3.Chaturvedi AK, Engels EA, Gilbert ES et al. Second cancers among 104,760 survivors of cervical cancer: evaluation of long-term risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute [early online publication]. October 30, 2007.