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Women warned over DIY smear tests

Cervical cancer experts have warned women about the problems of buying DIY smear tests online.

In response to a move by online pharmacy DrThom to start selling kits over the internet, women have been warned the results of the tests may not be correct.

Dr Anne Szarewski, a clinical consultant at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, said women may initially believe they have a sexually transmitted infection that could lead to cervical cancer.

But the infections may actually clear up on their own.

The new smear tests can detect changes in genetic material in cells affected by human papillomavirus (HPV). This is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer.

The £115 service is being aimed at busy career women, those who find going for smear tests embarrassing or younger people who fall outside the current age group for screening on the NHS.

Women in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive NHS screening from the age of 20 but those in England are only eligible from the age of 25.

Dr Szarewski said: "For women under 30 I don't think there's a call for HPV testing. It's going to create a lot of worry among women."

Nick Wales, consultant gynaecologist at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London, and one of the medical team overseeing the test service, said:"I believe within 10 years all cervical screening will be done this way."

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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine