To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will make it his policy to make smear tests for cervical cancer available to all women over the age of 16 who are sexually active; and if he will make a statement.
In 2012 the UK NSC recommended that the age of first invitation for cervical screening should be age 25 on the basis that there is evidence of a large number of women screened and treated with relatively little benefit below this age. Cervical cancer in women under the age of 25 is very rare. Younger women often undergo natural and harmless changes in the cervix that screening would identify as cervical abnormalities, and in most cases these abnormalities resolve themselves without any need for treatment.
Cervical cancer is linked to a persistent infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. Since 2008, girls aged 12 and 13 have been offered the HPV vaccination, which immunises them against the most high risk strains of HPV. To start with, girls up to 18 were also vaccinated so the first girls to be vaccinated will be coming into the cervical screening programme next year as they are 23 and 24 now. This vaccine will reduce the already low rates of cervical cancer in these young women and mean they will be protected for many years.