David Kerr on preventing cervical cancer in Africa

David Kerr I think we have reached a pivotal moment in the fight to prevent cervical cancer in Africa.  This week I organised an international meeting in Oxford, bringing together representatives of the First Ladies of Nigeria and Uganda, African health ministers, pharmaceutical companies, and leading cervical cancer doctors, to map out a strategy for cervical cancer prevention in Africa. At the end of the meeting, the delegates signed the Oxford Declaration committing, for the first time, to global cooperation to eradicate cervical cancer in Africa.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in Africa. It is a disease which affects women in the prime of their lives, but most are unable to get any treatment and, far too often, they suffer a painful death as the only form of palliation available is paracetamol.

In the UK we are on the road to eradicating cervical cancer with the introduction of the HPV vaccine, but in Africa there is virtually no support to protect women from cervical cancer. There was great excitement from the delegates about the impact that the introduction of the HPV vaccine could have in Africa. Until now the costs of doing this have been prohibitive, as a course of vaccine jabs costs £300 per girl, and so it was way beyond the budget of all African governments.

The delegates agreed that efforts need to be made to lower the cost of the vaccine for developing countries and Joan Benson from Merck announced that Merck is committed to offering GARDASIL, their HPV vaccine, at a no-profit price.  This is a fantastically generous offer which gives us a great opportunity to raise the necessary funds to get the vaccine onto the streets.

Early detection is also crucial in combating cervical cancer.  In the last few years there have been some phenomenal improvements in screening technology, due to the development of low cost DNA tests aimed at detecting the HPV virus.  And recent research suggests that even if women in developing countries had access to just one screening in their life-time, it could reduce their risk of cervical cancer by a third.

I remain an eternal optimist and committed to the battle against social inequality, and leave this meeting with a strong sense that we are entering a new phase in our drive to eradicate cervical cancer in Africa.  E Tenebris lux and a chorus of Kumbaya all round!

Professor David Kerr is the founder of AFROX (the Africa-Oxford Cancer Consortium) and Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Oxford.


  • Dear Professor David Kerr,
    there is a fundamental bias in some of your statements, as I wrote formerly, even on http://www.nature.com
    HPV and Cervical Cancer? What is unfortunately overlooked.
    As I wrote to both Nobel Prize Harald zur Hausen, as well as to Royal Swedish Academy of Science, I cannot agree with the reason of the recent Nobel Prize, although admit frankly that all researches on the relation between HPV and cervical cancer, and the primary prevention with anti HPV vaccine against cervical cancer is honestly performed in a worthy manner, especially from day-to-day practice viewpoint. However, I have been underscoring, unfortunately unhearded, that in all researches on the relation between papillomavirus (16, 18 types) and cervical cancer there is a fundamental bias, overlooked distressingly, and diheartening. As a matter of fact, all around the world Oncological Terrain and cervical cancer INHERITED REAL RISK are unfortunately overlooked by both physicians, including oncologists, and peer-reviews Editors, with some worthy exceptions, due to a lot of reasons, really easy to understand, in my opinion (1-7, 14, 15) See also my website.
    As a consequence, in spite of its complications, readable in large Literature, vaccination campaign against HPV to prevent cervical cancer in ALL young women has to be performed exclusively in those, surely involved by such as disorders, i.e. at real risk of cervical cancer. In Italy,too, as you surely know, is going on an expensive campaign against Cervix Carcinoma by means of HPV vaccination, adviced to ALL young women aged from 12 to 20 years. Really, NOT ALL individuals CAN be involved by malignancy, according to Oncological Terrain and Oncological Inherited Real Risk theory, largely accepted by few, farsighted, open-minded Editors, analogously to diabetes and CAD. All inherited real risks are characterized by microcirculatory remodelling, wherein newborn-pathological, type I, subtype a) Oncological, and respectively, subtype b) aspecific, Endoarteriolar Blocking Devices play a central role (1-13). Nowadays, doctor can bedside assess both Oncological Terrain and Oncological Congenital Real risk in a few minutes, with the aid of a simple stethoscope, as I have demonstrated in details in papers published in famous peer-reviews (1-7, 14).
    1. Stagnaro-Neri M., Stagnaro S. Introduzione alla Semeiotica Biofisica. Il Terreno Oncologico. Ed. Travel Factory, Roma, 2004. http://www.travelfactory.it 2. Stagnaro Sergio. New bedside way in Reducing mortality in diabetic men and women. Ann. Int. Med.2007. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    3. Stagnaro Sergio. Bedside Evaluation Tobacco’s actions on Biological Systems. The Lancet, October 13, 2007,(URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)

    4. Stagnaro S. Genes and Cancer: a clinical view-point. The Oncological Terrain. BioMed Central Informatics. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com) 2004
    5. Stagnaro S., Stagnaro-Neri M., Oncological Terrain, conditio sine qua non of Oncogenesis: (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    6. Stagnaro Sergio. “Genes, Oncological Terrain, and Breast Cancer”, World Journal of Surgical Oncology. 2005, (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    7. Stagnaro Sergio. Cancer Risk Factors and Oncological Terrain. 2006. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    8. Stagnaro Sergio. Without Oncological Terrain oncogenesis is not possible. CMAJ. 23 March 2007 (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    9. Stagnaro Sergio. GPs , Biophysical Semeiotics, and bedside cancer diagnosis. 08 July 2007, International Seminar of Surgical Oncology, (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    10. Stagnaro Sergio. Oncological Terrain and Inherited Oncological Real Risk: New Way in Malignancy Primary Prevention and early Diagnosis. International Seminars in Surgical Oncology, 2007. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    11. Stagnaro Sergio. Bedside Biophysical-Semeiotic Diagnosis of Breast Cancer, since initial Stage. International Seminars in Surgical Oncology 2007, (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    12. Stagnaro Sergio. What about Oncological Terrain. thescientist.com 2007. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    13. Stagnaro Sergio. Oncogenesis is possible exclusively in individuals Oncological Terrain-positive. thescientist.com 2007. http://www.the- scientist.com/blog/print/53498/
    14. Stagnaro Sergio. Overloking Oncological Terrain and oncological Real Risk, no paper is up-dated! 18 January 2008 Ann. Intern Med. (URL NO accepted by BMJ.com)
    15) Stagnaro Sergio. Quantum Biophysical Semeiotics and Cancer Inherited Real Risk http://www.nature.com:URLs not accepted by bmj.com (On request, I’ll send them)


    Dear Prof David Kerr see my NEWS on Italian website http://www.katamed.it, at URL

    Kind regards

  • janice_duley

    Cervical smears are recommended for all women, although if the woman hasn't had sex. The likelihood of cervical cancer in such girls is thought to be low, but it can still occur. Regular pelvic exams and Pap smears should be done once sexual activity starts. The frequency would rely on the findings and the woman's risk profile for any types of cancer.