Pap testing in young women detects few cervical cancers yet can lead to many unnecessary and potentially harmful interventions, concludes a new government study in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Medical groups call for cervical cancer screening to begin at age 21, yet many health care providers begin screening much earlier. The new findings, say the authors, should reassure clinicians about the safety of complying with the newer recommendations. Using federal cancer surveillance program data for 1999 to 2008, they found that Pap testing detected an average of 14 carcinomas per year among women aged 15-19, and 125 carcinomas per year among those aged 20-24. The authors assert that women under 25 have high rates of cervical abnormalities that will regress on their own and that screening women under age 21 can lead to unnecessary testing and procedures that can have potentially cause future reproductive problems. Read the abstract.

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