CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia Cancer Center is starting a new initiative to help fight cervical cancer across West Virginia and the Appalachian Region. The project is funded through an $11M grant from the National Cancer Institute.

During the five-year program, UVA is partnering with primary care practices throughout the region. Medical professionals will work to decrease smoking while increasing HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings - especially in women.

"There are basically three evidence-based approaches to reducing cervical cancer risks. The first one is smoking, we know that women who smoke are twice as likely to have cervical cancer than those who don't smoke. The reasons for that link are still not clear but it looks like it hastens some of the pre-cancer, the changes in the cells to pre-cancerous,” said Roger Anderson

Health professionals say vaccinations should begin at the age of 10 and screenings should start at age 21.