Cervical cancer rates have risen sharply among women in their 20s, according to new figures.
Incidence of the disease across England rose by 43% between 1992/94 and 2006/08.
Women in England are invited for cervical screening every three years from the age of 25 while those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are screened from the age of 20.
The screening age in England was raised from 20 to 25 in 2003 but the Department of Health says lowering the age again could cause too many false positive results, leading to unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment for women.
Experts at Cancer Research UK, which analysed today’s data, said changing the screening age is not a driver behind the rise in cancer rates.
The figures showed that cervical cancer rates among women in their 20s have continued to rise despite overall incidence of the disease dropping by about a third.
In 1992-1994, about six women aged 20 to 29 in every 100,000 (around 215 per year) were diagnosed with cervical cancer.
This increased to around eight per 100,000 between 2006 and 2008 (around 283 cases per year).
Hazel Nunn, head of evidence and health information at Cancer Research UK, only 2% of those women included in the figures from 1992 to 2006 were invited for screening after the age of 25.
“We know that that is not the cause of the increasing incidence in this study,” she said.
“Other possible causes are changes in sexual behaviour, the low effectiveness of screening in younger women and a slight decline in coverage of screening in the younger age group.”