Cervical cancer screening among women aged 18-30 years - United States, 2000-2010

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 Jan 4;61(51-52):1038-42.


Screening women for cervical cancer can save lives. However, among young women, cervical cancer is relatively rare, and too-frequent screening can lead to high costs and adverse events associated with overtreatment. Before 2012, cervical cancer screening guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Cancer Society (ACS), and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) differed on age to start and how often to get screened for cervical cancer. In 2012, however, all three organizations recommended that 1) screening by Papanicolau (Pap) test should not be used for women aged <21 years, regardless of initiation of sexual activity, and 2) a screening interval of 3 years should be maintained for women aged 21-30 years. ACS and ACOG explicitly recommend against yearly screening. To assess trends in Pap testing before the new guidelines were introduced, CDC analyzed 2000-2010 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for women aged 18-30 years. CDC found that, among women aged 18-21 years, the percentage reporting never having been screened increased from 26.3% in 2000 to 47.5% in 2010, and the proportion reporting having had a Pap test in the past 12 months decreased from 65.0% to 41.5%. Among those aged 22-30 years, the proportion reporting having had a Pap test within the preceding 12 months decreased from 78.1% to 67.0%. These findings showed that Pap testing practices for young women have been moving toward the latest guidelines. However, the data also showed a concerning trend: among women aged 22-30 years, who should be screened every 3 years, the proportion who reported never having had a Pap test increased from 6.6% to 9.0%. More effort is needed to promote acceptance of the latest evidence-based recommendations so that all women receive the maximal benefits of cervical cancer screening.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult