The Department of Health will not lower the age for cervical cancer screening, following a review by the independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS) in June 2009. The ACCS cited evidence that shows earlier screening can lead to more harm than good, with too many false positives and an increase in the risk of premature births in some women.
However, at the British Medical Association’s annual conference on 2nd July 2009, doctors voted three to one that women should be screened from the age of 20.
Cervical cancer screening takes place from the age of 20 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but was raised to 25 in England in 2003.
It was also noted that the number of women attending smear tests has fallen by 10 per cent over the past 10 years, and the poorest attendees - around 72 per cent - are those in the younger age group.
However, part of the review by the ACCS also recommended expanding work to increase screening uptake in women aged 25 to 34.
Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the UK Pharmaceutical Market, including some background information on health policies and cancer statistics, is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: United Kingdom (published March 2009)