Update on cancer control in women

P. Boyle, P. Maisonneuve, P. Autier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global cancer burden in women appears to have stabilized according to the most recent estimates available although the distribution of cancer types appears to be changing with a sharp contrast between the increase in the absolute numbers of breast cancers and a decline in cervix cancers. 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 currently 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. There is strong and consistent evidence that increased consumption levels of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of many common forms of cancer including breast cancer. 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 10 years after cessation the risk again 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 preventive strategies would appear to be the prevention of cigarette smoking and increased dietary intake of vegetables and fruits. Screening has also shown to be effective in reducing incidence and mortality of cervix cancer and mortality from breast 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. There are important variations in survival from a variety of cancers which are due to factors unrelated to the tumor behavior and that there are significant variations in survival from cancer. Reduction of these gaps could lead to a reduction in cancer mortality and contribute towards increased prospects for cancer control in women. (C) 2000 International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-303
Number of pages41
JournalInternational Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2000


  • Cancer
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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