The Star Early Edition - - METRO - Mail

MIL­LIONS of women could be spared the or­deal of hav­ing cer­vi­cal smear tests af­ter the age of 55, a ma­jor study sug­gests.

At the mo­ment Bri­tish women are in­vited for reg­u­lar cer­vi­cal screen­ing be­tween the ages of 25 and 64.

But re­search in­di­cates that a sen­si­tive new test be­ing brought in by the Na­tional Health Ser­vice could make test­ing past the age of 55 un­nec­es­sary. Women who had a neg­a­tive test at 55 had only a 0.05% chance of de­vel­op­ing cer­vi­cal can­cer in later life, re­sults pub­lished in the Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal con­cluded.

The study, led by McGill Univer­sity in Canada, used data from 200 000 women to cal­cu­late life­time risk of cer­vi­cal can­cer.

Bri­tish of­fi­cials con­firmed that sci­en­tists on the gov­ern­ment’s screen­ing com­mit­tee, which ad­vises the NHS, would look at the find­ings. Ex­perts, how­ever, stressed that more re­search was needed, and said women over 55 should con­tinue to at­tend their screen­ing ap­point­ments.

At the mo­ment women are in­vited for cer­vi­cal can­cer screen­ing 12 times be­tween the ages of 25 and 64: ev­ery three years un­til the age of 50 and then ev­ery five years.

Screen­ing takes place un­til re­tire­ment be­cause cer­vi­cal can­cer com­monly ap­pears in old age. But the McGill sci­en­tists found screen­ing could be stopped ear­lier thanks to the roll-out of a new way of test­ing for HPV – the virus which causes 95% of cases of cer­vi­cal can­cer – which means doc­tors can be more con­fi­dent women are at low risk. | Daily

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