Recommendations for the age to initiate cervical cancer screening should be directed towards maximum detection of early cervical cancer. However, the screening programme should do more good than harm. The aim of this analysis was to determine whether the target age for cervical cancer screening should be lowered in view of apparent increases in new cases of invasive cancer below age 30 and in age group 30-44 years in The Netherlands. Therefore, all cervical cancer cases diagnosed between January 1, 1989 and December 31, 2003 were selected from the nationwide population-based Netherlands Cancer Registry. For age group 25-39 years, incidence data were also available for 2004 and 2005. To describe trends, the estimated annual percentage of change and joinpoint analysis were used. Between ages 25 and 28 years, the absolute number of new cases of cervical cancer annually has varied between 0 and 9 per age. Significantly decreasing trends in incidence were observed for age groups 35-39 and 45-49 (p < 0.0001 and p = 0.01, respectively). The annual number of deaths fluctuated with a decreasing trend for age groups 30-34 and 35-39 years (p = 0.01 and p = 0.03, respectively). Because the incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer among women younger than 30 are low and not increasing, lowering the age for cervical cancer screening is not useful at this time. Although the number of years of life gained is high for every case of cervical cancer prevented, the disadvantages of lowering the screening age would be very large and even become disproportionate compared to the potential advantages.

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International Journal of Cancer
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Aa, M. A., de Kok, I., Siesling, S., van Ballegooijen, M., & Coebergh, J. W. (2008). Does lowering the screening age for cervical cancer in the Netherlands make sense?. International Journal of Cancer, 123(6), 1403–1406. doi:10.1002/ijc.23652