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HPV-vaccinated women only need three smear tests, study suggests

HPV-vaccinated women may only need three smear tests in their lifetimes, a study has found.

Statistical modelling showed limited benefit to additional screening tests in women who received the HPV-16/18 vaccine as children.

The study, carried out by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, used various scenarios to determine how many cervical screening tests would be needed by women who received the HPV vaccine at the age of 12.

They found that those who received the vaccine would only need three smear tests in their lifetimes, with screening tests at ages 30, 40 and 55 preventing an additional 2.8% of cervical cancers. Adding a fourth screen prevented just 1% of additional cancers, with extra screens after preventing less than 1%.

They also noted that the screening interval for unvaccinated women could be safely lengthened, finding that this patient group would need just seven smear tests in their lifetime. 

The results come ahead of planned changes to cervical screening in the UK, which will see HPV testing in cervical samples to screen those at risk of cervical cancer being rolled out in England by 2019.

Lead author Dr Rebecca Landy, medical statistician at the universty's Wolfson Institute, said: ‘Our results confirm that even in unvaccinated women, screening intervals can be safely lengthened with the introduction of HPV testing with cytology triage, compared to cytology testing.’

Public Health England expressed concern earlier this over week over declining figures for cervical cancer screening uptake, which fell by 0.72% across all eligible group in 2016/17.

Int. J. Cancer 2017; available online 10th November