Fewer Under-21 Women Get Pap Tests

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More women under age 21 are following national guidelines that recommend they not be screened for cervical cancer, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the guidelines, first introduced by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2009, women under the age of 21 should not be screened for cervical cancer, regardless of their sexual activity.

The new study shows that over the last decade, the number of women ages 18 to 21 who said they have never been screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test increased, from 23.6 percent in 2000 to 47.5 percent in 2010.

Women under 21 are at low risk for cervical cancer, and any abnormal cell activity detected by a Pap test in this group will often resolve without treatment, the CDC says.

In addition, women who've had a hysterectomy, and women over age 65 who've had normal Pap results in the past also do not need Pap testing, the CDC says.

Between 2000 and 2010, Pap testing in women who had undergone a hysterectomy declined from 73.3 percent to 58.7 percent. In women over age 65, Pap testing dropped from 73.5 percent to 64.5 percent.

However, the study found a disturbing trend. Among women ages 22 to 30 years of age, who should be screened every three years, the percentage who reported never having been screened rose from 6.6 percent to 9.0 percent.

"Public health initiatives to increase screening among these women should continue," the report said.

The report will be published tomorrow (Jan. 4) in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pass it on: The percentage of women under age 21 receiving Pap tests has declined in recent years.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.