Uptake of smear tests in women aged 60 to 64 is at a 15 year low, a charity has warned.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has raised concerns about the “worrying” decline in figures in England.
The charity also said it was troubled about the number of younger women who do not attend cervical screenings.
One in every three women aged 25 to 29 will ignore or delay their invitation to be screened, a spokeswoman said.
The figures, released by the charity to mark Cervical Screening Awareness Week, show that the uptake among women aged 60 to 64 fell to 72.7% in 2012, a drop of 5.3% from its peak in 2007.
Only 63% of younger women attended a screening last year.
“Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease thanks to the cervical screening programme, so we are extremely worried about this trend where women are ignoring their first and last invitation as this could potentially lead to an increase in women diagnosed with the disease,” said Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust director Robert Music.
“Recent reports point to an increase in women having new partners’ later in life and this will increase their risk of contracting HPV.
“However, even if this is not the case, typically cervical cancer is a slow growing cancer which usually takes 10 to 15 years to develop, so women who have not been sexually active for some time may still be at risk.
“We are equally concerned about young women as those aged 25 to 29 represent the lowest attendance for screening. It’s absolutely paramount that women take up their first invitation as early stage cervical cancer, in the majority of cases, is symptomless.
“In the best case scenario cervical screening is designed to detect abnormal cells before they turn cancerous saving a woman from going through invasive treatment with devastating consequences. Whilst it can prevent cervical cancer developing, screening also plays a vital role in catching the disease as early as possible, improving survival rates.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, added: “Regular cervical screening is the best way to detect changes to the cervix before cancer develops.
“Women at both ends of the eligible age range can benefit, as early detection and treatment of abnormalities in cervical cells can prevent cancer from developing. Research suggests that up to 4,500 lives will be saved each year in England by cervical screening.”
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