Dr Ojamaa defended her doctoral thesis

28. January 2020

Dr Kristiina Ojamaa, Head of the Centre of Oncology of East Tallinn Central Hospital, defended her doctoral thesis ‘Epidemiology of gynaecological cancer in Estonia’.

For the first time, Dr Ojamaa’s doctoral thesis provides a comprehensive overview of the long-term trends in the incidence and mortality and survival rates of gynaecological cancer in Estonia.
Gynaecological malignancies account for 13% of all malignancies diagnosed in women in Estonia. The results of a study conducted at the University of Tartu show that there is an increasing need to focus on screening, vaccination and cancer prevention, including a healthy lifestyle.

In her doctoral thesis, Dr Ojamaa describes that 12,142 new cases of gynaecological malignancies were diagnosed in Estonia between 1996 and 2016. “The most common gynaecological malignancy during this period was cancer of the corpus uteri, accounting for 35% of all cases,” described Ojamaa. “The lowest incidence (6%) was observed for vulvar and vaginal cancers. 20% of all cases were diagnosed in women under 50 years of age. The proportion of women over 80 increased from 8% to 14% during the study period.”
According to Ojamaa, the increase in the incidence of cancer of the corpus uteri is mainly related to the growing prevalence of obesity. “No effect of prevention on the incidence of cervical cancer was observed,” said Ojamaa, “demonstrating the lack of effectiveness of the national screening programme. However, the survival rate of patients with cancer of the corpus uteri has improved, and this is likely to be related to more frequent surgical treatment, even in older age and at later stages.”

According to Ojamaa, the quality and participation rate of cervical cancer screening should be improved to avoid premature deaths among women. “We need to achieve optimal HPV vaccination coverage and prioritise the fight against obesity,” she stressed. “The importance of regular gynaecological check-ups should be emphasised, particularly in older age, to help prevent and detect cancer.”

Dr Ojamaa’s doctoral advisors were Professor Emeritus Hele Everaus (Dr Med), Senior Research Fellow Piret Veerus (PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of NIHD) and Kaire Innos, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of NIHD (Dr Med). Dr Ojamaa’s opponent in defending the doctoral thesis was Professor Johanna Mäenpää (PhD), Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tampere University Hospital, University of Tampere, Finland.