Cervical cancer is the most prevalent malignancy in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with many women only seeking professional help when they are experiencing symptoms, implying late-stage malignancy and higher mortality rates. This ecological study assesses population-level exposures of SSA women to the numerous risk factors for HPV infection and cervical cancer, against late-stage presentation of cervical cancer.
A literature review revealed the relevant risk factors in SSA. Open-access databases were mined for variables closely representing each risk factor. A proxy for late-stage presentation was used (ratio of incidence-to-mortality, IMR), and gathered from IARC's GLOBOCAN 2012 database. Variables showing significant correlation to the IMR were used in stepwise multiple regression to quantify their effect on the IMR.
Countries with high cervical cancer mortality rates relative to their incidence have an IMR nearer one, suggesting a larger proportion of late-stage presentation. Western Africa had the lowest median IMR (1.463), followed by Eastern Africa (IMR = 1.595) and Central Africa (IMR = 1.675), whereas Southern Africa had the highest median IMR (1.761). Variables selected for the final model explain 65.2% of changes seen in the IMR. Significant predictors of IMR were GDP (coefficient = 2.189 × 10-6, p = 0.064), HIV infection (-1.936 × 10-3, p = 0.095), not using a condom (-1.347 × 10-3, p = 0.013), high parity (-1.744 × 10-2, p = 0.008), and no formal education (-1.311 × 10-3, p < 0.001).
Using an IMR enables identification of factors predicting late-stage cervical cancer in SSA including: GDP, HIV infection, not using a condom, high parity and no formal education.