Clinical Laboratories’ Role in Eradicating Cervical Cancer

January 18, 2023 Categories: ACLA Blog, ACLA News, All News

Clinical laboratory services play a critical role in evaluating womens’ cervical health. The utilization of screening tools, made possible by the ever-advancing capabilities of clinical laboratories, helps diagnose about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer annually and, just as importantly, helps identify risk factors for hundreds of thousands of women.[1] Early detection and diagnosis can help reduce the more than 4,000 annual deaths in the US from cervical cancer.[2] 

Two common diagnostic laboratory tests screen for and monitor cervical cancer risk. The Pap test looks for precancers, or cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not addressed. The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these precancer cell changes. Vaccination against HPV is another important addition to cervical cancer prevention.  

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21, starting with a routine Pap test. Between the ages of 30 and 65, women are advised to consult with their provider to determine which testing option is most beneficial: HPV testing only, HPV testing along with a Pap test, or a Pap test only.[3] Research has shown that cervical cancer tests performed within a 3-year period reduced the odds of cancer spreading beyond the cervix by 83 percent and reduced the risk of Stage 1 cervical cancer by 48 percent compared to women not screened in the previous 5 years.[4]

Despite strong clinical laboratory capacity to provide cervical cancer diagnostic screening services, data shows they are significantly underutilized, and disproportionately so among Black and Hispanic women.  According to the CDC, Hispanic women face the highest rates of developing cervical cancer, while Black women face the highest mortality rates.[5]

A recent Harris Poll survey reports that about one in 10 Hispanic and Black women say they have never had an OB/GYN visit for routine care (12 percent of Hispanic women and 8 percent of Black women vs. 3 percent of non-Hispanic white women) and similar proportions say they have never had a Pap test (12 percent of Hispanic women and 13 percent of Black women vs. 6 percent of non-Hispanic white women).[6] Moreover, CDC statistics reveal that more than 50 percent of new cervical cancers are in women who have never been screened or have not been screened in the previous 5 years of their life.[7] 

ACLA joins the chorus of voices raising awareness during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the value of laboratory-enabled screening and prevention tools. We will continue to work with providers, policymakers, patient advocates and public health leaders in promoting the use of vaccines, preventative screenings, early diagnoses, and treatments. Together, we can continue to make progress toward eradicating cervical cancer in the US and globally.

For more information about cervical cancer, including causes, risk factors, screening and prevention, visit

[1] American Cancer Society,

[2] American Cancer Society,

[3] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,

[4] Landy, R., Sasieni, P. D., Mathews, C., Wiggins, C. L., Robertson, M., McDonald, Y. J., … & New Mexico HPV Pap Registry Steering Committee. (2020). Impact of screening on cervical cancer incidence: a population‐based case–control study in the United States. International journal of cancer, 147(3), 887-896.

[5] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,

[6] The Harris Poll,

[7] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,

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