Black women are the second most likely demographic to develop cervical cancer. They are also more likely to die from this condition than white women.

Cervical cancer affects females, but due to various socioeconomic and healthcare factors, women may not get the healthcare they need. With this in mind, we will use the term “women” throughout this article.

Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer. People can pass this virus on through skin-to-skin contact, such as sexual intercourse, skin-to-genital contact, and oral sex.

While HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at any point, but few of them develop cancer.

This article will discuss what cervical cancer is, its symptoms, why there is a health disparity for Black women, how to reduce risk factors, and where to find support.

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Women over the age of 30 are more likely to develop cervical cancer.

While there are more cases of cervical cancer in white women, when the statistics adjust for population, Hispanic women are most likely to develop this form of cancer. Black women are the second most likely demographic to develop cervical cancer.

While the mortality rates of cervical cancer have been declining for several years, Black women are still 80% more likely to die from this form of cancer than white women.

Additionally, the overall 5-year survival rate is lower in Black women than white women. Around 56% of Black women will survive cervical cancer after 5 years compared with 68% of white women.

Historically marginalized groups, such as Black women, are less likely to receive adequate care and less likely to survive cancer than white people.

A 2018 article identified several factors that lead to a different cervical cancer experience for Black women and other historically marginalized groups.

Primary care providers who serve communities that are lower in income are less likely to use HPV co-testing or extend screening intervals due to concerns about abnormal results.

Primary care providers can also have biases and prejudices that inform how they react to Black women, with some treating them differently from white women.

Primary care providers are also less likely to communicate effectively with Black women. This can lead to a lack of informed healthcare decisions.

The American Cancer Society notes that there are two main reasons for the health inequity in cancer that Black women experience.

Economic factors

Black people in America tend to have a lower socioeconomic status than white people because of historical and current systematic racism.

People with lower socioeconomic status are more likely to engage in higher-risk behaviors, such as smoking. These behaviors may increase the likelihood of people developing cancer. Some marketing strategies from corporations may even directly target people from these backgrounds. People with lower socioeconomic status may also have fewer opportunities for physical activity and have less access to healthy, fresh food.

Access to healthcare

In the United States, a person’s health insurance, or lack of health insurance, can limit their access to healthcare. Black people are more likely not to have insurance and less likely to have private insurance. This may limit a person’s choice of doctor, treatments, and other healthcare.

Black people with private insurance are also more likely to experience worse care than white people with private health insurance. The gap between survival rates between a Black person with private insurance and a white person with private insurance is greater than the gap in uninsured persons.

Early stage cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms.

People who have cervical cancer that is more advanced may notice unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina, such as after sexual intercourse.

It is important to speak with a healthcare professional if a person notices any unusual bleeding or discharge.

Learn more about cervical cancer, including the symptoms, here.

Multiple risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cervical cancer. While some are general risk factors that affect all women, some factors disproportionately affect Black women.

General risk factors

The CDC notes that the following factors increase the risk of a person developing cervical cancer:

  • having HIV or another immunosuppressive health condition
  • smoking
  • using birth control pills for 5 or more years
  • having given birth to three or more children
  • having several sexual partners

Risk factors that may disproportionately affect Black women

A 2015 research paper found that Black women in the United Kingdom have the following factors that may increase the risk of cervical cancer:

  • a lack of awareness of this cancer
  • fear
  • embarrassment
  • shame
  • low perceived risk of cervical cancer

The American Cancer Society suggests a variety of ways in which people can reduce their risk of cervical cancer, including healthy eating, physical activity, and vaccination.

Healthy body weight

People should attempt to maintain a moderate body weight throughout their lives.

Individuals should also increase their physical activity where possible and limit the consumption of high calorie food and drinks.

Healthy eating

People should try to consume at least two and a half cups of vegetables and fruits each day. It is also important to limit the amount of processed and red meat and try to consume whole grain foods instead of refined grain products.

People should also try to limit their alcohol consumption. The American Cancer Society recommends that women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.

Physical activity

People should try to limit the amount of time they spend lying or sitting down, watching television, and any other sedentary activity.

Adults should aim to have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Children and teenagers should strive to be physically active for at least 1 hour per day.


The HPV vaccine can help prevent the development of cervical cancer. Both males and females can receive this vaccination.

People can start the vaccination procedure at the age of 9 years. The vaccine is most effective if people start the procedure before the age of 22 years.

The United States Preventative Task Force recommends that women aged 21–65 years have cervical cancer screening every 3 years.

There are two screening tests: the pap test and the HPV test. The pap test, or pap smear, looks for precancerous cells that may later develop into cancerous cells. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause cervical cancer.

If a person has a low income or does not have insurance, the CDC offers a National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for those who are eligible.

Learn more about cervical cancer screenings here.

People should see a doctor if they notice any unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina, such as after sexual intercourse.

Individuals should also make an appointment with a doctor to have regular cervical screening tests.

Some Black women may prefer to see a Black physician or nurse. features a directory on its website with the option to search for Black healthcare professionals who are in a person’s insurance network.

Black women are more likely to develop cervical cancer than white women. They are also far more likely to die from this form of cancer.

There are many barriers to survival, such as income and access to healthcare.

A way to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer is to ensure those eligible for the HPV vaccine undergo the vaccination procedure.

It is also vital for people to have regular cervical screenings.

The CDC offers screening services for those who do not have insurance and for those who have lower incomes.