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Women who suffer from mental illnesses have ‘twice the risk’ of developing cervical cancer

According to a new study, women with mental illnesses are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer than those who do not attend their smears.

The observational study by Karolinska Institutet in Sweden was published in The Lancet. It involved more than 4 million women who were born between 1940-1995.

Researchers compared women with neuropsychiatric disabilities, mental illness, or substance abuse to women who were diagnosed by a psychiatrist with these conditions with those without such diagnoses.


Calculated the risk of cervical cancer, precancerous lesions, and their participation in screening programs.

Kejia Hu (postdoc researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Institute of Environmental Medicine) said that “our study identified a high risk group that needs additional attention if we are to eliminate cervical cancer.”

She said that these women are more likely to participate in screening programs, and have a higher incidence for lesions in their cervix.

“We found that these women have twice as much risk of developing cervical carcinoma.”

All diagnoses were at risk, but substance abuse was the most common.

Researchers found that women suffering from mental illness should be more aware of the importance of attending their gynaecological screenings.

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“It would lower them risk of cancer,” stated Karin Sundstrom (a senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine).

“Similarly, healthcare professionals can be more aware of the potential cancer risk in these patients and take preventative steps to make sure they are available for patients who may not have access.

This comes just a few months after the WHO approved a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a woman’s health issue in May 2020.

The strategy requires that 70% of women be screened for the disease at the very least once before they turn 35, and two times before they turn 45.


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