In a letter written by American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers published in JAMA
), researchers described how they sought to determine if the expansion of health insurance among young American women has led to an increase in the number of cervical cancers diagnosed in its early stages.
The researchers examined trends in data entered into the National Cancer Database registry, which includes about 70% of all US cancer cases. They compared the incidence of a cervical cancer diagnosis for women aged 21-25 to women aged 26-34, who were diagnosed prior to 2010 when the Affordable Care Act went into law. They found that 79% of the younger group had an early-stage diagnosis in 2011-2012, up from 71% in 2007-2009.
Early-stage diagnoses of cervical cancer rose substantially among the younger group who now had health insurance coverage and remained unchanged among the older group that already had health insurance. Although these data are encouraging, I wonder if the increased number of early-stage diagnoses occurred because of increased screening. It’s possible that young women went without cervical cancer screening while uninsured, and then were screened once they were insured. Nonetheless, an early diagnosis of cervical cancer is always preferable to a later diagnosis.