The UK NSC recommendation on Cervical Cancer screening in women

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme recommended
Last review completed January 2016
Next review due in 2018/19
Key downloads

Evidence to support continuation or cessation of existing screening programmes should be reviewed regularly. The process for this is currently being revised, which is why this topic does not currently have a review date. The new process will be published in due course. Each programme has an active portfolio of research, evidence and audit to support continual improvement. Find out more about cervical cancer screening in England.

UK Cervical Cancer Screening Programme should adopt the test for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) as a primary screening test.

The programmes should continually gather evidence and experience to allow for a modification of screening intervals. This evidence should be presented to the UK NSC on a regular basis to allow for consistent UK practice outside formal research. Major modifications should be brought formally to the UK NSC.

The UK NSC recommended in November 2012 that the age of first invitation for cervical screening should be raised to 25 in Wales and Scotland on the basis that there is evidence of a large number of women screened and treated with relatively little benefit below this age. Screening for women aged 50-64 should be undertaken five yearly.

A number of Questions and Answers have been written to help explain the rationale for starting screening at age 25 rather than 20.


Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening recommended by UK NSC?

The reasons the UK NSC recommended changing to HPV as the primary cervical screening test are that:

  • the HPV vaccination offered to girls aged 12 to 13 strengthens the rationale for primary HPV screening. The vaccination will offer prevention of HPV and result in a falling number of women who remain at risk of catching HPV and developing cervical cancer
  • a primary test for HPV will save more lives by determining a woman’s risk earlier. Work to assess extending the screening interval with HPV screening is ongoing. This will follow once confirmatory pilot data and other international evidence is reviewed by the UK NSC
  • HPV testing means that if the woman tested does not have high risk HPV, her chances of developing a cancer within five years are very small

More about Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part (or neck) of the womb, made of muscle tissue. It is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is a relatively rare type of cancer. In the UK, approximately 2,800 women are diagnosed with it each year.

» Read more about cervical cancer on NHS Choices

» Read more about cervical cancer on Cancerbackup

Screening in the UK

Compare how screening is offered across the UK.


The British Association for Cancer Research
British Association for Cytopathology
British Association of Surgical Oncology
The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology
Cancer Research UK
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Nursing- Women's Health Forum
Royal College of Pathologists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal College of Surgeons
Society and College of Radiographers

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Related documents

icon Efficacy of HPV based screening - The Lancet 2014 (PDF document, 240KB, 15/01/16)
icon HPV screening for cervical cancer consultation comments (PDF document, 2.10MB, 15/01/16)

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