Routine screenings prevent cervical cancer in elderly women

July 7, 2016 by Sarah Banducci  

A new study from the University of Illinois confirms a link between routine Pap smear screenings and a lower risk of developing cervical cancer in women over age 65. However, most American health guidelines discourage women in that age range from receiving screenings unless they have pre-existing risk factors.

The new findings are published in the journal Gynecologic Oncology.

"Some studies report that Pap smears are unnecessary in older age, while others show that there is a benefit in the over-65 age group," said Karin Rosenblatt, a cancer epidemiologist and a professor of kinesiology and community health at Illinois. "There's been a great debate about it."

Early research on screenings recommended not testing over age 50. This suggested age cutoff for screening was increased in recent years as the disease and risk factors are better understood.

"While the incidence of cervical cancer is greater in adult women under the age of 65 years, those over 65 tend to have more fatal cases of the disease," Rosenblatt said.

When detected early - often via a Pap test - pre-malignant cervical cancer tissue can be removed or treated so it does not progress into malignant cancer.

"If you have regular Pap smears, there is a greater chance the doctor will catch it before it progresses to malignant cervical cancer," Rosenblatt said.

She assessed whether regular Pap tests reduce the risk of cervical cancer, specifically in women over 65.

Rosenblatt and her team looked at Medicare billing data from 1991-99 and extracted information for more than 1,200 women who had been recently diagnosed with cervical cancer, as well as a group of more than 10,000 patients who had no cancer diagnosis. The researchers determined which of the patients had received a screening Pap smear two to seven years prior to diagnosis.

"We found that the newly diagnosed cervical cancer group was less likely to have had a Pap smear, compared with the control group," Rosenblatt said.

These results imply that routine Pap tests are beneficial for preventing malignant cervical cancer in women over 65, she said.

Rosenblatt said there needs to be a more thorough cost-benefit analysis of conducting the screenings in elderly women. While there is a clear benefit of diagnosing cervical cancer, for some groups such as those with short life expectancy or comorbid illnesses, screenings may be unnecessarily invasive.

"There needs to be further study of the benefits and risks of doing Pap smears in the elderly," Rosenblatt said. Future studies should comprehensively assess cervical cancer screenings in older women and more accurately inform health policy recommendations.

Explore further: HPV vaccine reduced cervical abnormalities in young women

More information: Karin A. Rosenblatt et al, Case-control study of cervical cancer and gynecologic screening: A SEER-Medicare analysis, Gynecologic Oncology (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2016.06.016

Related Stories

HPV vaccine reduced cervical abnormalities in young women

July 4, 2016
Young women who received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine through a school-based program had fewer cervical cell anomalies when screened for cervical cancer, found a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Research makes connetion between tubal ligation and increase in cervical cancer rates

January 14, 2013
the surgical tying or severing of fallopian tubes to prohibit pregnancy – have less frequent Pap smears, which puts them at an increased risk for cervical cancer, according to research recently released by a team that included ...

What's the best test for cervical cancer? Pap, HPV or both?

June 9, 2014
Should U.S. women be screened for cervical cancer with Pap tests, HPV tests or both? According to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) while the merits of screening ...

One in 10 US women miss cervical cancer screenings

November 5, 2014
Eight million US women have not been screened in the last five years for cervical cancer, even though regular checkups can help prevent the fatal disease, US health authorities said Wednesday.

Pap smears a must to protect against cervical cancer

October 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—An alarming number of women don't understand that the common sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher has ...

Could the Pap smear be ousted by HPV testing?

January 19, 2015
A Pleasanton firm that received FDA approval for a test against cervical cancer said it has gained the support of a panel of medical experts to use the test as a frontline screening for women as young as 25, but the announcement ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.