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Experts Join Forces for a “Cervical Cancer-Free America”

Public Health Experts Join Forces to Create a “Cervical Cancer-Free America”
January 20, 2011

Tracy Morris

Chapel Hill, NC: As our country observes National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January, a growing number of public health experts are working to stamp out this preventable disease – state by state – once and for all. The Cervical Cancer-Free America (CCFA) initiative, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, announced today that six states have already joined its multi-state, multi-year effort to eliminate this disease by increasing vaccination and screening rates. CCFA also unveiled a new website (, which features the largest clearinghouse of public health education materials ever compiled for cervical cancer prevention, and announced that it will host a national summit in Washington, DC, in May.

Each year, over 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 women die of this preventable disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The goal of eliminating cervical cancer is a lofty one, but eminently achievable,” said Jennifer S. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at UNC and director of Cervical Cancer-Free America. “Cervical Cancer-Free America is working to make this vision a reality by driving state and local prevention programs, and ensuring that successful strategies are shared among states.”

Begun in January 2010, CCFA works with leading university and other public health partners in each state to form coalitions that deliver locally on CCFA’s national cervical cancer prevention goals:
To increase vaccination, particularly among girls aged 10 to 18, against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer; and to increase cervical cancer screening, especially among women who have not been screened in the last four years, with the Pap test and, as appropriate, with the HPV test. To date, coalitions in Alabama, California, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas are actively engaged in prevention programs under the “Cervical Cancer-Free” campaign umbrella.

“Our country has the medical know-how and tools to prevent almost every case of cervical cancer,” said John T. Schiller, Ph.D., senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. “What we need now – and what we’re increasingly seeing – is the will among members of the public health community to make cervical cancer prevention a priority. ”

To support states’ efforts, CCFA’s new website provides extensive information, including current information on states’ cervical cancer prevention efforts, news updates and recent publications, links to other organizations addressing the issue, and other resources. The site also includes a link to the new clearinghouse, accessed at, which provides a wide range of educational materials, including fact sheets, brochures, and multimedia and online resources, which can be accessed through a searchable database.

In early May, CCFA will also host the first annual Cervical Cancer-Free America Summit in Washington, DC, which will bring together a diverse range of public health community leaders from around the country to network and share ideas, with an eye towards achieving CCFA’s national cervical cancer prevention goals.

About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is caused by persistent infections with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that 3 of 4 adults will have at some time in their lives. HPV vaccines are now available and target the two types of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers and are FDA-approved for girls and young women up to age 26. Studies, however, suggest that less than one in two young adolescent females has received an HPV vaccine. HPV vaccination does not protect against all of the HPV types that can cause cervical cancer. Thus, women who have been vaccinated still need to be screened.

The Pap test, the traditional screening test for cervical cancer, looks for abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer. At least half of all cervical cancer deaths are due to lack of screening, yet an estimated 25 percent of women in the U.S. have not been screened in the last three years. The Pap test has led to a dramatic decrease in cervical cancer rates in the U.S. and is recommended for women aged 21 and older. About one third of cervical cancer deaths, however, are caused by screening errors with the Pap test, a problem that more sensitive HPV DNA tests could potentially address. The HPV test is now available, in conjunction with a Pap, for women aged 30 and older.

About Cervical Cancer-Free America

Cervical Cancer-Free America is a multi-year, multi-state initiative that is implementing a broad public health strategy to eliminate cervical cancer through vaccination and effective screening. The initiative is led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Public Health. Since its inception in January 2010, CCFA has been the catalyst for cervical cancer-free initiatives in the states of North Carolina, Alabama, California, Kentucky, Indiana and Texas, and plans to include other states in the future. It currently covers 30 percent of all cervical cancer cases in the U.S. The initiative was launched through an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. For more information, please visit

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