Vinegar holds promise for cervical cancer screening

June 6, 2013

A test for cervical cancer that uses ordinary vinegar--and that can be performed by trained laypersons--holds promise for poor countries where cytology-based screening is not easily implemented. This low-cost, innovative solution to a pressing women’s health problem was presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

 

A test for cervical cancer that uses ordinary vinegar--and that can be performed by trained laypersons--holds promise for poor countries where cytology-based screening is not easily implemented. This low-cost, innovative solution to a pressing women’s health problem was presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial among more than 150,000 women in the Mumbai slums of India over a 15-year period. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in developing countries and is the leading cause of cancer death in Indian women, according to the researchers. Their results showed that biennial screening for cervical cancer by trained nonmedical personnel using acetic acid reduced cervical cancer mortality by 31%.

In the screening group, the researchers achieved 89% participation for screening and 79% compliance for postscreening diagnostic confirmation. The quality of screening by trained nonmedical personnel was comparable to that of expert gynecologists. The incidence of invasive cervical cancer was 26.74 per 100,000 (95% CI, 23.41-30.74) in the screening group and 27.49 per 100,000 (95% CI, 23.66-32.09) in the control group. Compliance with treatment for invasive cancer was 86.34% in the screening group and 72.29% in the control group. The screening group showed a 31% reduction in cervical cancer mortality (mortality rate ratio RR=0.69; 95% CI, 0.54-0.88; P=0.003) compared to the control group. A 7% reduction was also observed in all-cause mortality (mortality rate ratio RR=0.93; 95% CI, 0.79–1.10; P=0.41).

When applied in developing countries that have little or no access to Pap screening, this easy-to-implement procedure could ultimately prevent 22,000 deaths from cervical cancer in India and 72,000 deaths in low-resource countries worldwide each year, the researchers claim.