(HealthDay News) – The cervical-cancer screening program used by the Netherlands is as effective as the screening protocol used in the United States, producing similar cervical cancer mortality rates in spite of less screening, according to research published in the March issue of the Milbank Quarterly.

Dik Habbema, MD, of the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues used nationally representative data sources from the Netherlands and the United States to estimate the number of Pap smears performed since 1950 and the rate of cervical cancer mortality for each country.

Over the period studied, the researchers found that cervical cancer mortality rates were similar for both the United States and the Netherlands, despite the fact that three to four times more Pap smears were performed in the United States. In both countries, the five-year coverage rate was approximately 80 to 90% for women aged 30 to 64 years. However, in the United States, coverage was much higher for women younger than 30 and older than 60, as the screening in the Netherlands is limited to those aged 30 to 60. These differences impacted the age-specific mortality trends.

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“Cross-country studies like ours are natural experiments that can produce insights not easily obtained from other types of study,” the authors write. “The cervical-cancer screening system in the Netherlands seems to have been as effective as the U.S. system but used much less screening.”

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