Older Women Underscreened for Cervical Cancer

JUNE 15, 2017
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Although current guidelines indicate that women at average risk do not need to be screened for cervical cancer after age 65, the results of a recent study suggest that women up to age 85 can benefit from these screenings.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, evaluated data on cervical cancer rates and the use of screening tests among women 65 years and older from the 2013 and 2015 National Health Interview Survey. The research team found that, after correcting for hysterectomy, incidence rates of cervical cancer among the participants increased up to age 70 and did not start declining until age 85. The study authors also noted that one-fifth of cervical cancer cases and one-third of cervical cancer deaths in 2013 occurred among women 65 years and older.

Additionally, the researchers discovered that while only 12% of women in their 40s had not been recently screened for cervical cancer, that percentage progressively increased as women approached their 50s and 60s and that nearly 850,000 women aged 61-65 years had not been screened within the previous 5 years.

“In the short term, efforts could be undertaken to clarify misperceptions about the risk of cervical cancer among older women and providers,” said lead author Mary C. White, ScD, in a press release. “Messages about a ‘stopping age’ need to emphasize the recommendation for an adequate screening history of previous negative tests before screening is discontinued, not just chronologic age.”