England's smear test age to be reviewed

The age at which women should start taking smear tests is being reviewed in England.

Government ministers are expected to report later this year on whether women should be offered the test between the ages of 20 and 24, as they are in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Under-25s have been excluded from such tests since 2003 due to the fact relatively few cancers were being detected and concerns were raised over unnecessary invasive treatments.

The review will consider evidence of the harms and benefits of cervical screening in younger women, assess levels of awareness of cervical cancer and its symptoms and consider the likely impact of the HPV vaccination on future incidence of cervical cancer.

Health minister Ann Keen says: "Cervical screening saves around 4,500 lives every year and we want to ensure that our programme remains in the best interests of young women."

She adds that in making the decision, experts will review the latest available evidence in this area as well as considering how awareness of the importance of cervical screening can be raised.

Cervical cancer is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 women per year in the UK, according to figure from the NHS.