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March 5, 1997

The Papanicolaou Smear: Medicine's Most Successful Cancer Screening Procedure Is Threatened

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Roper Hospital and The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston (Dr Austin), and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Dr McLendon). Dr McLendon is Editor of Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

JAMA. 1997;277(9):754-755. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540330076039

In the first definitive medical journal publication of early results from the use of the cervicovaginal smear of exfoliated cells for the detection of carcinoma of the cervix and uterus, Papanicolaou and Traut1 stated in 1941 that there were some 26 000 deaths a year in the United States due to cancer of the uterus and that "this rate has remained practically constant during the past twenty-five years."1 In 1996, deaths from cervical cancer in the United States are estimated to be 4900 per year.2 Considering the almost 2-fold increase in population during the intervening half century, this is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

See also the March 1997 issue of Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

Much of this progress during the past half century in converting cervical cancer from the No. 1 cancer killer of women in the United States to the No. 8 killer2

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