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According to a recent study, performing Human Papillomavirus (HPV) tests for women aged 65 and above can help prevent cervical cancer. HPV screenings detect infections and potential cancer cells by collecting a small sample of cervix cells. While most HPV viruses are harmless, some can cause cancer, emphasizing the importance of the test. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of women over 65 have never had this test.

Some HPV viruses can cause cancer

The study conducted in Denmark examined women aged 65-69 who had not undergone cervical cancer screening in the past 5.5 years and had not received an HPV test between the ages of 60 and 64. Denmark offers free cervical cancer screening for women up to the age of 64.

More than 11,000 eligible women in Denmark had the choice of picking between a doctor appointment or a self-sampling kit for HPV-based cervical cancer screenings. Another group of over 33,000 women in different regions of Denmark formed a control group. While they were not invited for screenings, they could still choose to have a cervical cytology sample collected opportunistically.

Researchers monitored cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) rates for all subjects for 13 months. CIN is a pre-cancerous condition caused by certain types of HPV, which can potentially develop into cancer spreading into nearby tissues.

Inadequate screening of women above 65 years increases risk of HPV infection

The study revealed that 62.2%t of women in the intervention group (around 7,000 participants) underwent screening within a year, whereas only 2.2% in the control group had their cervical cytology specimen collected. The intervention group showed a significantly higher detection rate for CIN grade two or worse (CIN2+) compared to the control group.

According to the study, inadequate screening in women aged 50 to 64 was associated with a higher risk of HPV infection and CIN2+ lesions relative to those who were properly screened. The researchers also found that the insufficiently screened women were more inclined to choose vaginal self-sampling, indicating its potential suitability for older women.

Randers Regional Hospital’s Dr Mette Tranberg stated that catchup HPV screening could improve cancer prevention for women above 65 years.