Cancer control in women. Update 2003

P. Boyle, M. E. Leon, P. Maisonneuve, P. Autier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global cancer burden in women appeared to be increasing quickly at the end of the twentieth century with notable increases in the absolute numbers of cases of breast, cervix, lung and colorectal cancer of concern. However, prospects for cancer control in women appear to be good within our current knowledge and deserve close attention. Rates of lung cancer in women are increasing substantially in many countries and seem set to overtake breast cancer as the commonest form of cancer death in women in many parts of the world. These changes are due to the effects of cigarette smoking, a habit which women widely embraced during the second half of the last century. The high levels of smoking current in young women, which have yet to have their full impact on death rates, constitute an important hazard not only for future cancer risks but for several other important causes of death. Although the breast is the commonest form of cancer in women in most western countries, the etiology of this disease remains elusive and preventable causes remain to be identified. Endogenous hormones also appear to have a role in cancer risk in women: oral contraceptives seem to increase slightly the risk of breast cancer in users in the use, and in the immediate post-use, period, but ten years after cessation the risk returns to that of never users. Oral contraceptive usage also appears to be protective against ovarian and endometrial cancer. The use of Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) appears to increase the risk of endometrial cancer and a positive association with breast cancer risk appears to exist. Within our current knowledge of the epidemiology of cancer in women, the most important Cancer Control strategy is the prevention of cigarette smoking and the increase in the prevalence of adult women quitting smoking. Screening has also shown to be effective in reducing incidence and mortality of cervix cancer and mortality from breast and colorectal cancer. Although more work is needed, it is becoming clear that there could be an important role of HPV testing to further enhance cervix cancer screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-202
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003


  • Cancer Control
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Screening
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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