Cervical carcinoma rates among young females in the United States

Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Nov;120(5):1117-23. doi: 10.1097/aog.0b013e31826e4609.


Objective: All national organizations now recommend that women be screened for cervical cancer beginning at age 21 years, regardless of age of sexual initiation; however, studies have shown that providers continue to screen much earlier than recommended. Two federal cancer surveillance systems were used to quantify the burden of invasive cervical carcinoma among women younger than 40 years of age.

Methods: We examined combined data from the National Program of Cancer Registries and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program covering 92% of the U.S. population. We calculated the age-adjusted incidence of cervical carcinoma among women younger than age 40 years by age, race, ethnicity, and histology for the time period of 1999-2008.

Results: For women younger than age 40 years, 78% of the cervical cancer cases were diagnosed in women aged 30-39, 21% were diagnosed in women 20-29 years of age, and 1% was diagnosed in women younger than age 20 years. There was an average of 3,063 cases of invasive cervical carcinomas annually from 1999 through 2008, with an average of 14 carcinomas per year (rate of 0.15 per 100,000 females) among those aged 15-19 years, and 125 carcinomas per year (rate of 1.4 per 100,000 females) among those aged 20-24 years.

Conclusion: Cervical cancer is very rare in young women. Widespread implementation of Pap testing over the past four decades has detected very few cases of cervical cancer in women younger than 25 while potentially causing harm with unnecessary follow-up interventions.

Level of evidence: III.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Registries
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Young Adult