The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that women begin cervical cancer screening at age 21 rather than three years after the onset of sexual activity, as was previously recommended by the group.
ACOG has also modified its recommendations for how often women should be screened for cervical cancer, bringing them more in line with 2002 guidelines put out by the American Cancer Society, according to Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of breast and gynecologic cancer for the American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer affected 11,270 U.S. women in 2009, according to the ACS statistics.
Over the last 30 years, screening has decreased the cervical cancer incidence rate by half, according to ACOG. But screening prior to age 21 often leads to unnecessary follow-up treatment and emotional anxiety for young women who are actually at a very low risk for the disease.