January is the month that the international community dedicates to the prevention of cervical cancer, which is the fifth most frequent cancer amongst women under 50.
In Italy, cervical cancer affects around 2,400 women every year, or 1.3% of all cancers affecting women, with a likelihood of cure after diagnosis of about 64%.
Cervical cancer is mainly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)infection, which is transmitted sexually and more frequently so amongst young people. Most infections regress spontaneously; persistent infection, on the other hand, can result in the formation of lesions in the cervix, which can develop into cancer. However, other factors contribute to its onset: cigarette smoking, sexual activity from an early age, multiple sexual partners, immunodeficiency conditions, the presence of close relatives with this cancer in the family, the prolonged use of oral contraceptives, a diet low in fruit and vegetables, and obesity.
Cervical cancer has not yet been completely eradicated, but in recent years advances in research and preventive measures (screening and vaccination) have significantly reduced the incidence rate and severity of the disease.
The tests for cervical cancer screening are the Pap test, which is offered in Italy every 3 years to women between the ages of 25 and 29, and the Papilloma virus test (HPV-DNA test) offered every 5 years to women between the ages of 30 and 64.
Together with screening examinations, the anti-papillomavirus (anti-HPV) vaccination is strongly recommended for the younger population, males and females from the age of 11 and, if possible, by the age of 12. The anti-papillomavirus (anti-HPV) vaccination is an effective preventive measure for the younger generation, although it does not replace subsequent screening tests for women.
This year's Cervical Cancer Prevention Month is again an important opportunity to promote vaccination within the paediatric population and to raise awareness amongst the adult female population about adherence to screening programmes.