Health Insurance and Cervical Cancer Screening Among Older Women in Latin American and Caribbean Cities

Women in less developed Latin American and Caribbean countries have higher mortality rates from cervical cancer than women in more developed ones. Older women have higher rates of cervical cancer in undeveloped countries than younger women in more developed countries, making screening for older women in Latin America and the Caribbean important.

These researchers sought to determine the association between health insurance and Papanicolaou (Pap) smear use in women over age 60 in seven cities (Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bridgetown, Barbados; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Mexico City, Mexico; Havana, Cuba; and Montevideo, Uruguay) using data from the Health, Well-Being and Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean Study.

The prevalence of Pap smear use during the past two years ranged widely: Mexico City (46%), Sao Paulo (44%), Buenos Aires (37%), Havana (27%), Montevideo (24%) and Bridgetown (21%).

In six of the seven cities studied, women with private insurance had the highest rates of Pap smear use, compared to those with public/military or no insurance. Havana was excluded from the insurance analysis since its residents have universal health care insurance.

The rate of Pap smear use in the Latin American and Caribbean women studied was lower than that of Hispanic women in the United States.