Cervical cancer could be eliminated in Ireland in the next 40 years, a new study has found.
Scientists made the prediction after plotting the long-term effects of high levels of smear test screening and vaccination.
There is also a chance of the disease being eliminated globally by the end of the century if enough women were screened for papillomavirus (HPV) and vaccinated, The Lancet Oncology study found.
In high-income countries, the disease is on the retreat thanks to HPV vaccination and screening, but a big gap exists between richer and poorer countries when it comes to cervical cancer prevention.
In 2008 average screening rates were 63% in high-income regions but as low as 19% in low and middle-income countries.
The study showed that boosting global vaccination coverage to 80%-100% by 2020 and twice lifetime screening rates to 70% could result in cervical cancer being eliminated in the richest countries by 2055-59.
At that point, fewer than four in 100,000 women per year would be developing the disease.
Currently, an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year worldwide, making it the fourth most common cancer in women.
Around 85% of these cases occur in less developed regions.
Rapid scale-up of HPV vaccination and screening could prevent up to 13 million cases of cervical cancer around the world by 2050, said the study authors.
Without enhanced prevention, the researchers predicted that 44.4 million women globally would be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the next 50 years, rising from 600,000 in 2020 to 1.3 million in 2069.
To carry out the study the scientists analysed high-quality data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer to predict future trends under a “business-as-usual” scenario.
They then carried out a computer simulation to calculate the impact of scaling up HPV vaccination and screening in 181 countries between 2020 and the end of the century.