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Cervical screening age to be reviewed

A panel of experts is to carry out an evidence review to determine whether women under the age of 25 should be routinely screened for cervical cancer, Health Minister Ann Keen announced today.

Cervical screening currently starts at age 25 years in England, in line with World Health Organization recommendations and the advice of leading experts in this country including the independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS).

The Health Minister has asked the ACCS to review the latest available evidence relating to the risks and benefits of cervical screening in women under 25 years.

The ACCS will consider the latest evidence available, including evidence from the key cancer charities who will be invited to contribute to the review. The board of experts will then recommend whether it is beneficial for women under 25 to be screened.

Health Minister Ann Keen said: "We are very proud of our cancer screening programmes in the NHS, which are internationally recognised as world-class.

"Cervical screening saves around 4,500 lives every year and we want to ensure that our programme remains in the best interests of young women.

"Experts will review the latest available evidence in this area as well as consider how we can increase awareness of the importance of screening and encourage more women to decide to take up this important service."

The evidence review will be conducted by the ACCS which is chaired by Professor Henry Kitchener, National Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards and the Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes Julietta Patnick.

The evidence review will be presented to Ann Keen later this year.

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I think that smears should be available from 20 yrs of age as there have been too many cases already of under 25s having cervical cancer." - Jayne Bristoe, Essex

"Wales also has been screening from age 20–65 for a number of years. I agree that condom use should be promoted in preventing cervical cancer in addition to the HPV vaccine – but cervical screening is a third part of the jigsaw and it remains a fact that young girls will continue to have unprotected sex; so if they will not take advantage of all three, then at least it offers another choice." - Mari Roberts, Wales

"We have been doing smears on 20–60-year-old women for the last 21 years here in Scotland. My daughter has had colposcopy aged 22 for a mildly dyskariotic first ever smear and has just moved to London where I hope she will be allowed to have her 6-month follow-ups." - Name and address supplied

"I am happy to hear a review is to be carried out on cervical screening; however, we should not be media driven and in my opinion the age of 25 years should remain until evidence is shown that the lower age limit should be reduced. The media works wonders I would like to tell it to promote childhood vaccines as prevention rather than its part in the reduction in the measles vaccine uptake in children." - V Henry

"I am happy that policy is being kept under review, but concerned that it may be 'media driven'. I note that none of the publicity about Jade Goody has mentioned the protective effects of condom use." - Name and address supplied

"As a nurse I go on clinical judgement when deciding whether to screen a patient under 25. I think it should be lowered to 20 as it was before. The introduction of the vaccine should reduce the risk, but children are having intercourse well below the age of consent and are increasing their risk considerably." - Bonnie Koffman, Lincolnshire

"This is good news but we need to wait for the evidence. Of course we always did screen younger woman in our contraceptive clinics. With pressure for STI screens and a reduction in clinic numbers, funds will need to be directed in orde rto offer women of younger ages this screen if the expert panel recommend it." - Kathy French, London

"It has been very difficult over the last few weeks, due to the press coverage of Jade Goody. Our laboratory has been accepting all smears so we have been doing smears for patients under 25 years who have requested it. Nurses are 'piggy in the middle'. The guidelines are there but the GPs I work for don't agree and think the programme should start at 20 years." - Helen Power, Sussex