Screening for cervical cancer prevents 70 percent of deaths from the disease, but this figure could be as high as 83 percent if all eligible women had regular smear tests, according to new research by Cancer Research UK, published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Around 800 women in England die from cervical cancer each year. The CR UK study concludes that, without screening, an additional 1,827 more women would die from the disease. However, if all women aged between 25-64 were screened regularly, an extra 347 lives could be saved.
The researchers, based at Queen Mary University of London, analysed records of more than 11,000 women in England who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
They also found that the biggest impact of screening is among women aged between 50-64, where there would be five times more deaths from the disease, and that there would be more than twice the number of cervical cancers diagnosed if there were no screening programme.
"Thousands of women in the UK are alive and healthy today thanks to cervical screening," said lead researcher Professor Peter Sasieni. The programme "already prevents thousands of cancers each year and as it continues to improve, by testing all samples for the human papilloma virus (HPV), even more women are likely to avoid this disease."
Earlier this year the charity warned that, if current screening trends continue, cervical cancer will jump 16 percent among 60-64 year-olds and by 85 percent among 70-74 year-olds by 2040.
The predictions spurred from a survey of more than 1,000 women undertaken for the charity, which showed that one in three have delayed or not attended potentially life-saving smear tests, with an average delay of 26 months and 10 percent delaying for over five years.