Nov. 10, 2017 -- Women who have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may only need 3 Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer in their lifetime, a study suggests.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London say cervical screens when women are aged 30, 40 and 55 would offer the same benefit to vaccinated women. The American Cancer Society currently recommends most women be screened every three years.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, comes as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force studies potential changes to the guidelines.

Currently, Pap testing involves checking for abnormal cells within the cervix that could, if undetected and untreated, develop into cervical cancer.

The current HPV vaccine available in the U.S., Gardasil, protects against the types of HPV responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers, as well as giving protection against 90% of genital warts.

The full benefit of the HPV vaccine occurs only if a person receives it before infection. CDC guidelines recommends that 11 to 12 years olds receive two doses of the vaccine at least six months apart, before they become sexually active.

The latest research suggests that these vaccinated women can still be effectively protected from cervical cancer with fewer Pap tests.

"This is great news for women,” says Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, which funded the study.

An estimated 12,820 in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year. An estimated 4,210 will die from the disease.

Show Sources

Cancer Research UK


U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

International Journal of Cancer, October 2017.

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