Women in Prison Have Increased Rates of HPV, Cervical Cancer

Imprisoned women are at higher risk of cervical cancer and HPV infection than the general population, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Researchers conducted a systematic review of published and unpublished data on the prevalence of any HPV infection, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and cervical cancer in imprisoned women.

A total of 53,533 imprisoned women from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Taiwan, and Russia from 35 studies published between 1968 and 2017 were included in the analysis.

Increased HPV, cervical cancer prevalence in imprisoned population

The prevalence of HPV among prisoners ranged from 10.5% to 55.4% with significant heterogeneity. Countries with the lowest HPV percentages were Brazil and Italy, while Taiwan and Spain had the highest percentages. For reference, the worldwide prevalence of HPV among women with normal cervical cells is about 11%.

The prevalence of CIN diagnosed by cytology in prisoners ranged from 0% to 22%, with the highest rates in the United States, Spain, and Brazil. Ratios comparing the prevalence of CIN in imprisoned women to that in the community ranged from 1.13 to 5.46, with imprisoned women having double the rate of lesions compared with the general population in respective countries.

Invasive cervical cancer ranged from 0.1% to 1.2% in imprisoned women, which is 100 times the rate of the general population.

“People in prisons are deprived of their freedom as part of a criminal conviction, but that should not mean they are also deprived of their right to health and preventive interventions,” coauthor Nadia Escobar Salinas, of the Ministry of Health in Santiago, Chile, told Reuters.

“Targeted programs for control of risk factors and the development of more effective cervical screening programs are recommended,” the researchers concluded.