Women over 45 more likely to skip smear test despite half of cervical cancer cases being diagnosed later in life

A worrying statistic...

women over 45 skip smear tests
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Women over 45 are more likely to skip smear tests, according to new research.

The study, which was published in the journal Preventative Medicine, found that the rates in women attending their regular smear test declined after the age of 45.

This comes despite the fact that half of cervical cancer cases being diagnosed in women over 49.

The research from the University of Michigan looked at approximately 80,000 study participants in the USA and aims to highlight the necessity for women to continue attending their tests even after the menopause.

Data shows that the rates dropped in certain groups of women, especially those between the ages of 49 and 65.

The study suggested that women living rural areas and those who have spent less time in educations were more likely to skip their screenings.

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According to the NHS, women should be sure to attend regular smear tests between the ages of 25 and 64.

The general frequency for cervical screenings should be once every three years for those between 25 and 49 and then every five years for those between 50 and 64.

In some cases a doctor may require patients to attend the screenings more regularly, and those above 65 will be invited for a test if they had previously seen abnormal results.

Rates have dropped in the past, with women between 50 and 64 who attended their regular smear tests dropping from 81 per cent in 2003 to 77.5 per cent in 2013.

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“Early detection is key to preventing invasive, devastating and potentially fatal cases of cervical cancer,” said senior study author Professor Diane Harper.

“From a public health standpoint, screening of women under 30 is considered to be the least effective investment of resources, because cancer tends to develop in middle age.

“Meanwhile, if a woman is screened after age 42, there is an 8 in 10 likelihood no cancer will be detected at her next screening a few years later -- meaning they’re a vital way of catching problems early.”

Aleesha Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home - so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows all the best places to splash your cash. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 after graduating from University of Leeds in 2014 with a BA in English and Spanish (which took her to Madrid for a fun Rioja and tapas-packed year). Aleesha has worked for woman&home since 2019, when she joined the team as their digital news writer. A year on the news team gained her quick and reactive writing skills and a love for breaking stories, invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first, an AOP awards nomination and the nickname ‘crazy watch lady’ after she became so obsessed with the royals that she followed breaking news alerts on her Apple Watch.

Before joining the woman&home team, Aleesha wrote for their sister site GoodtoKnow, where she covered celebrity news, health advice and where to snap up the cheapest lifestyle buys. With a background in beauty, Aleesha has also written for Stylist and Women’s Health where she developed an understanding into what makes a stellar product and which brands are worth paying attention to. She never leaves the house without a slick of lip balm and a good slathering of SPF, cannot live without an eyelash curler by her side and is always on the hunt for new lipsticks to add to her ‘Lipstick of the Day’ Instagram story highlight (and color-coordinated collection).

But it’s not just beauty buys Aleesha can help you with. Social media savviness, strong PR relationships and a need to stay in the know mean she’s all about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys too. She loves indulging in an interior craze (with a bedroom drowned in prints, plants and pink), is a regular visitor to the Missoma and Edge of Ember 'New In' pages and can’t resist the allure of a kitchen gadget—just ask her three coffee machines.

When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, catching up on the latest Netflix craze with her sister, trying out new recipes, drinking wine with her bestie and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter amongst her friendship group. Oh and she makes the most of her Disney+ subscription by watching the Marvel films on repeat (definitely not just for Chris Evans...).

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