Background: In England, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged under 35 years. Overall incidence of cervical cancer has decreased since the introduction of the national screening programme in 1988 but recent trends of incidence in young women have not been studied in detail.
Methods: Information on 71,511 incident cases of cervical cancer in England, 1982-2006, in 20-79-year-olds was extracted from a national cancer registration database. Changes in incidence were analysed by age group, time period and birth cohort. Poisson regression was used to estimate annual percentage change (APC).
Results: Overall incidence, during 1982-2006, fell significantly from 213 to 112 per million person years. However, in 20-29-year-olds, after an initial fall, incidence increased significantly during 1992-2006, (APC 2.16). In 30-39-year-olds incidence stabilised during the latter part of the study period. The pattern was most marked in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and East Midlands regions. Birth cohorts that were initially called for screening between 60-64 and 35-39 years of age show an incidence peak soon after the age of presumed first screen, whereas younger birth cohorts show a peak at about 35 years of age. Incidence in the 1977-1981 birth cohort has increased relative to that among women born between 1962 and 1976.
Conclusion: These results have implications for cervical screening, human papilloma virus vaccination and other public health interventions targeting young people.