New research reveals women over the age of 50 who don’t attend cervical screening are four times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in later life.
The study underlines the importance of screening women over 50 for cervical cancer to prevent the disease, and provides evidence that women with normal screening results between 50 and 64 have a lower risk of cervical cancer into their eighties.
Researchers examined data taken from 1,341 women who were screened aged 50 to 64 and the number of cervical cancers diagnosed between 65 to 83.
Women who had not been screened after 50 had a six-fold higher risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer than those who had been screened but had a normal result during this time – with 49 cancers being diagnosed per 10,000 unscreened women over 20 years, compared to eight cancers per 10,000 women with normal screening results.
Women who had been screened regularly but had a positive (abnormal) screening result between 50 and 64 had a risk of 86 cancers per 10,000 women over 20 years.
Peter Sasieni, Professor of Biostatistics & Cancer Epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, comments: “Screening up to the age of 65 greatly reduces the risk of cervical cancer in the following decade, but the protection weakens with time and is substantially weaker 15 years after the last screen. With life expectancy increasing, it’s important for countries that stop screening under age 60 to look into their screening programmes to maximise the number of cervical cancer cases prevented and the number of cervical cancers caught at an early stage.”
The research published in PLoS Medicine and funded by Cancer Research UK showed screening was equally effective for women screened every five years and those screened every three years.
In England and Northern Ireland, women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for screening. Between the ages of 25 and 49 women are screened every three years. Between 50 and 64 years women have screening every five years. In Scotland, women between 20 and 60 years are invited for screening every three years. Scotland will also extend screening for women up to the age of 64 from 2015. In Wales, women between 20 and 64 are screened every three years.