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Smear tests for over-50s can reduce risk of cancer

Published on 15 January 2014 03:30 PM

Women aged over 50 are being urged to take regular smear tests as they can significantly reduce the chances of developing cervical cancer.

Those who skip the tests are up to 6 times more likely to end up with cervical cancer, according to a Cancer Research UK study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

The benefit of regular screening declines over time but nevertheless endures well into older age, the scientists found. Women with a screening history and normal screening results between the ages of 50 and 64 have a lower risk of cervical cancer that lasts at least into their 80s.

Data taken from 1,341 women aged 65 to 83 who were diagnosed with cervical cancer between 2007 and 2012 was compared with data from 2,646 women who did not have the disease.

The researchers found there were 49 diagnosed cases of cervical cancer per 10,000 women at age 65 to 83 within the group of women who skipped smear tests when they were aged 50 to 64.

That figure compared with a rate of just 8 cases per 10,000 women among those with an adequate screening history and normal results.

The highest risk of all was seen among the women who had undergone regular screening but had an abnormal result between the ages of 50 and 64. Within this group there were 86 cervical cancer cases per 10,000 women at age 65 to 83.

Risk 'greatly' reduced by early screening

Cancer Research UK's expert on cervical screening and the study's co-author Professor Peter Sasieni, from Queen Mary University of London, said the risk of cervical cancer in the decade following the age of 65 is 'greatly' reduced by regular screening prior to that age.

'But the protection weakens with time and is substantially weaker 15 years after the last screen,' he continued.

'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.'

Screening was similarly effective among women screened every 5 years and those screened every 3 years between the ages of 50 and 64, the researchers found.

Copyright Press Association 2014

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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