The association of obesity and cervical cancer screening: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Feb;17(2):375-81. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.480. Epub 2008 Nov 6.


Obese women are at an increased risk of death from cervical cancer, but the explanation for this is unknown. Through our systematic review, we sought to determine whether obesity is associated with cervical cancer screening and whether this association differs by race. We identified original articles evaluating the relationship between body weight and Papanicolaou (Pap) testing in the United States through electronic (PubMed, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library) and manual searching. We excluded studies in special populations or those not written in English. Two reviewers sequentially extracted study data and independently extracted quality using standardized forms. A total of 4,132 citations yielded 11 relevant studies. Ten studies suggested an inverse association between obesity and cervical cancer screening. Compared to women with a normal BMI, the combined odds ratios (95% CI) for Pap testing were 0.91 (0.80-1.03), 0.81 (0.70-0.93), 0.75 (0.64-0.88), and 0.62 (0.55-0.69) for the overweight and class I, class II, and class III obesity categories, respectively. Three out of four studies that presented the results by race found this held true for white women, but no study found this for black women. In conclusion, obese women are less likely to report being screened for cervical cancer than their lean counterparts, and this does not hold true for black women. Less screening may partly explain the higher cervical cancer mortality seen in obese white women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • United States
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data*