Cervical cancer rates in Britain halved between the late 1980s and mid-2000s but progress has since been stalling and stagnating, Cancer Research UK has warned.
The latest data marks a decade-long lack of progress, including a 54% rise in rates among 25 to 29 year-olds.
It also suggests potentially life-saving interventions don’t always reach the people who need them.
Less than three-quarters of women invited for cervical screening take it up, and this falls even further in younger age groups and more deprived regions.
Cancer Research UK believes this is part of the reason why cervical cancer still affects over 3,000 people each year.
Research carried out by the charity found that around four in 10 who didn’t attend a screening appointment put it down to embarrassment, while two in 10 were worried it might hurt.
Others said they had no symptoms to get checked out or just didn’t feel they were at risk.
54%The rise in the cervical cancer rates
among 25 to 29 year-olds
since the mid-2000s
(Source: Cancer Research UK)
Cervical cancer incidence rates in Britain show a clear spike in 2009, when more people attended screening and were subsequently diagnosed. Cervical screening attendance in March that year was 70% higher than usual following TV star Jade Goody’s diagnosis.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said it is important to continue to raise awareness and carry out research into how screening could be improved for hard-to-reach groups.
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) – an infection that around eight in 10 people in the UK will get and can now be vaccinated against.
The HPV vaccine is now offered to children across the country and is expected to save many lives.
Over the next decade, as people who have been vaccinated reach the age when they’re most at risk of cervical cancer, disease rates are expected to fall. However, the vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of HPV, so it is still vital that cervical screening continues alongside, the charity said.