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Three years between cervical cancer screenings appears to be safe for most women under 30

Study also indicates that an HPV test is better than a Pap smear alone at assessing risk.

May 19, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog

Women 30 and older who’ve been told they can safely wait three years between cervical cancer screenings can relax. Such advice appears to be true for those who’ve had normal Pap smears and negative human papillomavirus (HPV) test results.

A new study of more than 300,000 women confirms current guidelines that say women don’t need to be screened every year for the disease. The study also suggests that the HPV test alone might be better at assessing future risk of cervical cancer than a Pap smear alone -- and almost as accurate as combining the two screenings.

The results are to be presented at a meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in June.

WebMd has a full take on the study. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this guide: “Making Sense of Your Pap and HPV Test Results.

But here’s why the latest study is so important...

A few generations ago, cervical cancer was the main cancer killer of women in the U.S. Today, the number of deaths has fallen to 4,000 per year.

In less-developed countries, cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer in women, causing about 300,000 deaths each year, according to CervicalCancer.org.

The difference is that the Pap smear has become routine for many American women. No one wants to see that death toll start to climb again. These results suggest they won’t.

healthkey@tribune.com

RELATED: More news from HealthKey

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