Cervical cancer is much deadlier than previously thought, according to a study published Monday in the journal Cancer. And black women are twice as likely to die from the disease than white women are.

The new study reveals that death rates from cervical cancer have been "grossly underestimated" and that the disparity in the death rates between black and white women is starker than we knew, say gynecological oncologists Heather J. Dalton, M.D., and John H. Farley, M.D., in an editorial that accompanied the study.

When the authors of the new study corrected the old estimates by excluding women who had had their uterus (and cervix) removed, they found that the cervical cancer mortality rate was 48 percent higher than previously believed for Caucasian women, putting it at 4.7 per 100,000. Among black women, the rate was a shocking 76 percent higher than previously believed, at 10.1 deaths per 100,000.

That means black women in the U.S. are dying from cervical cancer at a rate similar to women in some developing countries.

The authors suggest a few possible reasons for the disparity, pointing to earlier studies that show that cervical cancer is often found later and treated less effectively in black women than in white women.

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer kills about 4,000 women in the U.S. every year. Yet as many as 93 percent of cervical cancers are preventable.

Women can protect themselves from cervical cancer by getting vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes more than 90 percent of cases. According to the Choosing Wisely campaign, a partnership between Consumer Reports and many medical groups, though children should ideally be vaccinated against HPV when they are 11 or 12, women can get the vaccine up to age 26. (The Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine only for use up to age 26; more recent studies have suggested there is little benefit after that age, though more research is needed.)

"The impact of vaccination cannot be underestimated," note Dalton and Farley in their editorial. And there is plenty of room for improvement: In 2014, only 40 percent of girls between 13 and 17 were fully vaccinated against HPV.

Routine screening also prevents cervical cancer, because Pap tests can detect irregular cells that can be treated before they become cancerous.

Our experts recommend that women between ages 21 to 30 get a Pap test every three years. Between ages 30 and 65, women should be tested every five years, and they should be tested for HPV at the same time. After age 65, most women do not need Pap tests if they have undergone regular screenings previously and are not at high risk. But some doctors may recommend continued screening in older women with certain risk factors (a weak immune system, for example).

The Affordable Care Act requires that all private insurance plans as well as all plans sold on the exchanges cover Pap tests and HPV vaccines for the recommended groups.

"Deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented, in so many cases, by early detection through Pap smears and regular gynecological visits," says Consumer Reports’ medical director, Orly Avitzur, M.D. "And HPV-related cervical cancer can be entirely prevented by getting the vaccine at a young age."