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Teens May Not Benefit from Pap Tests
Date:7/28/2009

British study supports raising age for screening, which U.S. is pondering,,

TUESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- A British study adds evidence to support a growing movement to raise the age at which American women should start Pap screening to detect cervical cancer.

In England, the recommended age at which a woman should first have a Pap test was recently raised to 25. In the United States, however, women are told to get regular Pap smears within three years of their first sexual intercourse or at age 21, whichever comes first.

But changes are being considered by the U.S. organizations responsible for Pap test recommendations, said Debbie Saslow, director for breast and gynecological cancer at the American Cancer Society, one of those organizations.

She said that there's a broad-based feeling that the age for first testing should be raised to 21. "What we find is that screening is not very helpful in teenagers, even if we are finding cancer at an early age," Saslow said.

The British study "did show, as we have found many times, that low-grade lesions go away by themselves more often in younger women," she said.

The study, in fact, was undertaken because many British experts believed that a pap test followed by aggressive treatment of moderate cancerous changes in the cervix did more harm than good in women younger than 25. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Pap tests are still offered to women aged 20 to 24.

The researchers, from Queen Mary College in London, compared 4,012 women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer between 1990 and 2008 with a matched group of 7,889 women who did not have the disease. All women were 20 to 69 years old and lived in the same areas.

Three papers published online Tuesday in the journal BMJ reported on three aspects of the study.

The first found no difference in outcomes when young women whose Pap smears showed abnorm
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