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Cervical cancer rise in women in their 20s

The number of cervical cancer cases in women in their 20s has grown by over 40% between 1992 and 2006 in England, research claims.

This is despite the overall incidence of cervical cancer dropping by 30%.

The research - funded by Cancer Research UK - looked at overall trends in cervical cancer cases in women aged between 20 and 79 years from 1982 to 2006.

Findings showed incidence rates of the disease initially dropped following the introduction of cervical screening in England.

However, the number of women aged between 20 and 29 diagnosed with cervical cancer is now rising in most areas of the country.

Between 1992 and 1996 around five women aged 20-29 years in every 100,000 (963 cases, around 192 per year) were diagnosed with cervical cancer.

This increased to around six per 100,000 between 2002 and 2006 (988 cases, around 197 per year).

Furthermore, the latest figures for 2007 - 2008 show this rising trend is continuing, with around nine women in every 100,000 (606 cases, 303 per year) now developing the disease.

In comparison, cervical cancer incidence rates among women aged 50-79 years dropped from around 17 per 100,000 (6263 cases) between 1992 and 1996 to just over 10 per 100,000 (4089 cases) during 2002 and 2006.

In October 2003 cervical cancer screening only became available to women over the age of 25. The rise in age restriction from 20 to 25 came as a result of evidence suggesting the measure was "much less effective" in preventing cancer in women aged 20 - 24.

"These figures show just how crucial it is for all 12-13 year-old girls to have the HPV vaccination," said Hazel Nunn, head of evidence and health information at Cancer Research UK.

"Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common infection and the major cause of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against two strains of the infection and is most effective when given to women before they are exposed to the virus.

Cancer Research UK

We asked you if you think the age for cervical cancer screening should be lowered? Your comments (terms and conditions apply)

“I think the age should be dropped for sure, there are so many cases that are being missed out on which again isn't going to help the stats.” - Emma, Keith

"Yes I agree stats should be made clearer but have always said why do Scotland and England still start smears from age 20 and not England? It does not make sense and if any are getting missed should this not be acted on urgently?" - Lorraine, East Yorkshire

"It would be helpful to have the evidence broken down of increases in ages 20-25 and then also 25-29 as otherwise unsure of significance" - Helen Batchelor, North Cheam

"Yes and the frequency of screening reduced" - Brenda Simmonds, Surrey

"I would like to see a breakdown of these figures, to show the numbers of 

cervical cancer cases in young women per head of population in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is incredible that English tax payers - who pay by far the largest share of tax - are denied screening for their own young women yet happily subsidise screening for the Scots and the Welsh. Someone very close to be was CIN III after her very first smear test at 25, despite only having one partner whom she met at school' and it makes me very angry that this could have been picked up sooner. If the Scots and Welsh think it is important that their young women are screened - why are English girls expendable? Of course the age for screening should be lowered, and I don't know any (English) nurses who disagree!" - BL

"Yes, i have had unexplained bleeding which i have reported to several GPs in my practice, my mother had cancerous cells four times, one of which was the last stage, my sister has also had them in her early 20s yet im not entitled to a smear test because im underage! - Carly Robson, Durham

"Yes I do. Of course a break down of the numbers would add more information. I have worked as a nurse with young people for many years and used to screen young women under the age of 25. I was shocked at the decision to increase the age for screening because my experience indicated that a substantial minority presented with cellular changes, up to CIN3, at their first screen even at the age of 20 years old.

BL's comment above about the fact that in UK only young women in England are denied access to screening is certainly pertinent. When will this discriminatory state of affairs be reviewed and all countries be offering the same service - at the lower age?" - Sarah James, Newcastle Upon Tyne

"I work in Scotland where the age is 20 - this is a missed opportunity to pick up early problems" - Rosalyn Barclay, Glasgow

"Yes I agree stats should be made clearer but why do Scotland and England still start smears from age 20 and not England? It does not make sense and if any are getting missed, should this not be acted on urgently?" - Lorraine, East Yorkshire