History of Cervical Cancer and the Role of the Human Papillomavirus, 1960-2000

History of Cervical Cancer and the Role of the Human Papillomavirus, 1960-2000

The history, largely untold, of the development of cervical cytology, of effective screening and its ultimate success in reducing cervical cancer incidence and mortality, and the viral cause of cervical cancer, took place within a complex social background of changing attitudes to women’s health and sexual behaviour.

Dr Georges Papanicolaou’s screening method (the Pap smear) started in the US in the 1940s. It was widely used in the UK a decade later and a national programme of cervical screening was established in 1988. The association of sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) with cervical cancer was less readily accepted. The detection of HPV16 in cervical cancers at the end of the 1970s was aided by the explosion of laboratory, clinical, and public health research on new screening tests and procedures. These made possible the successful development, licensing and use of preventive vaccines against the major oncogenic HPV types, HPV16 and -18.

The Witness Seminar was attended by virologists, cytologists, gynaecologists, epidemiologists and others and addressed the development of cytology as a pathological discipline. They discussed who became cytologists and screeners; the evolution of screening in the UK and elsewhere; the impacts of colposcopy and of HPV; and the discovery of virus-like particles and the development of the HPV vaccine.

The meeting was chaired by Professor Glenn McCluggage and the topic was suggested by Professor David Jenkins. Contributors include: Professor Valerie Beral, Professor Saveria Campo, Professor Jocelyn Chamberlain, Professor Dulcie Coleman, Dr Lionel Crawford, Professor Heather Cubie, Professor Jack Cuzick, Dr Ian Duncan, Dr Winifred Gray, Dr Amanda Herbert, Professor David Jenkins, Dr Elizabeth Mackenzie, Dr Joan Macnab, Professor Anthony Miller, Professor Julian Peto, Dr Catherine Pike, Professor Peter Sasieni, Professor Albert Singer, Dr John Smith, Professor Margaret Stanley, Mrs Marilyn Symonds, Dr Anne Szarewski, Professor Leslie Walker, Mr Patrick Walker, Dr Margaret Wolfendale and Professor Ciaran Woodman. Two appendices with reminiscences from Professor Leopold Koss, Dr Arthur Spriggs and Dr O A N (Nasseem) Husain complete the volume.

Introduction by Professor Anne Johnson, 192pp, 2 appendices, 7 figures, 2 tables biographical notes, references, glossary and index.

Reynolds L A, Tansey E M. (eds) (2009) History of cervical cancer and the role of human papillomavirus, 1960–2000, Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine, vol. 38. London: The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL.

ISBN 978 085484 1233