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Game Changer

South African Professor To Receive One Of Two Prestigious Medals Awarded Annually For Cancer Research



South African Professor Lynette Denny To Receive One Of Two Prestigious Medals Awarded Annually For Cancer Research – Photo source: University of Cape Town

For the past 25 years, Professor Lynette Denny of the University of Cape Town (UCT) has researched extensively on cervical cancer. She is the Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCT and Groote Schuur Hospital. Denny is also head of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gynecological Cancer Research Center. However, based on her work, she has been picked for the prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Medal of Honor.

Every year, IARC awards two researchers who distinguish themselves in cancer research with a medal. Professor Lynette Denny’s award is in recognition of her work on cervical cancer prevention, particularly among poor communities. However, this will not be the first time that the professor’s work will be receiving international recognition.

The IARC has a long-term commitment to the research and prevention of cancer. Their drive is particularly among low and middle-income countries. The evidence base for cancer control in these areas is still lacking. For example, it is believed that a high percentage of black South African women are prone to cervical cancer.

More accolades for Professor Lynette Denny

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), now in its golden jubilee year, picked Professor Lynette Denny as one of the recipients of the Gold Medal. The award ceremony took place on November 7, 2019, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The medal recognizes the professor as a researcher who has raised the profile of science in the country.

SAMRC is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in South Africa. Since 1995, Professor Lynette Denny has been researching methods of cancer prevention among poor women. Consequently, she is one of the foremost scholars in the field in the continent. However, her major achievement is in the area of gynecological oncology especially cervical cancer. During the award Professor Lynette Denny said,

“Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in South Africa, after breast cancer, yet it is preventable through mass screening – and early detection saves lives. Over 80% of women with cervical cancer are black women and most are poor with limited access to healthcare. However, the most common age group is 40 to 50 years. Major impediments are access to healthcare and prioritizing mass cervical cancer screening programs.”

Steps to winning the war on cervical cancer

To win the war on cancer, there has to be a coalition in the areas of policy, research, resources, and screening. Also, there is a need to step up effort to eliminate predisposing factors like the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There is a high correlation of HPV-associated disease and cancer. According to Professor Lynette Denny,

“Work is also needed to develop modern, accessible and accurate diagnostic tests and treatment. Cervical cancer is a disease of inequity of access to care and, with the advent of HPV vaccination and widespread availability to screen women of the appropriate age, could be eliminated.”

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