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Women "too busy" for cancer smears

Women may miss cervical cancer screenings, not because they are scared or embarrassed, but because they are too busy to attend, according to a study.

Smear tests, which save about 4,500 lives each year, have long suffered from low take-up rates, but Cancer Research UK also found that these women were more likely to miss screening if they rarely or never voted in elections.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Screening, showed women aged 26-44 had the strongest association between missed votes and tests, with researchers suggesting they did not have time for either.

Researcher Dr Jo Waller said: "With uptake of cervical screening in England still much lower than we would like, these findings suggest that overcoming practical barriers may be the most important factor in maximising cervical screening uptake.

"These results are encouraging. In the past, it was thought that emotional factors such as concern about embarrassment and pain were the best predictors. Minimising practical difficulties is a more achievable goal.

"In terms of the correlation between voting and screening attendance, it may be that as both activities require a degree of organisation, women who do not manage to vote because of busy lives may also be unlikely to attend screening."

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Journal of Medical Screening