THE incidence of cervical cancer among women under 35 is on the increase due to them having their first sex at a younger age and sleeping with more people, doctors said.
According to figures from the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence rate has risen from less than 2 percent in 1975 to about 20 percent now.
“After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common form of the disease affecting women in the city,” said Dr Wu Dan from the Shanghai International Maternity and Child Health Hospital.
The hospital recently launched a series of lectures to educate people about the risks of the disease.
“But it has a higher death rate than breast cancer, because it often goes undetected until it is at an advanced stage,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), but because it has a long development period it is preventable and treatable.
“Most HPV infections are dealt with by the body’s immune system, but repeated infections of certain types can develop into cervical cancer,” Wu said.
“Women who have sex at an early age, have numerous sexual partners and have more unprotected sex are five to 10 times more likely to get a cervical disease,” she said.
Dr Wu said her patients are also getting younger.
“It used to be that the women who came to my clinic were mostly in their 30s, but now there are more in their 20s,” said Wu.
“The youngest I’ve seen this year was just 19, who told me she started having sex at the age of 16 and has had four partners,” Wu said.
Wu advises women to have regular cervical screens and to practise safe sex.
According to Dr Wu Xiaohua from the Shanghai Cancer Hospital, it is also important for young women to be screened for the disease as infection can hurt their chances of having children.
“More than 40 percent of our young cervical cancer patients are unmarried or have yet to have a baby,” she said.
“By treating the disease, we want to make sure they can have children in the future,” Wu told Shanghai Daily.