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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Clinton Wrong on Cancer Stat

The candidate slips up at the Lance Armstrong Foundation forum.


Sen. Hillary Clinton used the wrong statistic in talking about cervical cancer today. She said that 500,000 women die from the disease worldwide each year. Actually, 250,000 do.


The Lance Armstrong Foundation hosted a presidential forum on cancer issues for the Democratic candidates Aug. 27 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four of the candidates participated – Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Republican candidates were scheduled to talk about these issues the following day.

 Scott Morgan/Getty Images

In past debates and forums, we have found Clinton to be a human encyclopedia in her recitation of facts and figures. While other candidates from both parties occasionally have stumbled on statistics, using inflated or flat-out wrong numbers, Clinton has proven to be accurate even on some we initially thought were questionable. This time, however, she slipped up.


In answering a question about testing for cervical cancer in schools, Clinton said:

Clinton: Well, the HPV vaccine, which was 20 years in the making, holds out the promise of saving young women’s lives from cervical cancer. 500,000 women around the world die every year, I believe.

Actually, about 250,000 women die from the disease each year worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute. The 500,000 number is the institute’s estimate of how many new cases are diagnosed each year around the world. For the U.S. alone, the cancer institute estimates that 15,000 cases are diagnosed each year and that 4,100 women die of the disease.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization, cites similar numbers. The group says 493,000 cases are diagnosed and 273,500 women die worldwide each year.

The United Nations World Health Organization says cervical cancer was responsible in 2005 for "up to 500,000 new cases and up to 257,000 deaths." It also says the numbers are rising, projecting that there will be 320,000 cervical cancer deaths in 2015 and 435,000 in 2030, worldwide.

-by Lori Robertson and Emi Kolawole


U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. "Vaccine Protects Against Virus Linked to Half of All Cervical Cancers." Accessed 27 Aug. 2007.

National Cervical Cancer Coalition Web page. Accessed 27 Aug. 2007.

World Health Organization. "Implementation of resolutions: progress reports; Report by the Secretariat," 2 Jan. 2007.

World Health Organization, "The World Health Organization’s Fight Against Cancer," brochure accessed online 27 Aug 2007: 9