By Ian Barnsley
The number of older women attending a cervical cancer screening has fallen to its lowest in 16 years, according to a charity.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, based in London, revealed that 27.3 per cent of women aged 60 to 64 failed to attend screenings - the lowest uptake in 16 years.
However, cervical cancer rates among this age group has increased by 29 per cent in a year.
Young women skipping cervical cancer screenings
According to new research, women who miss screenings are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer and the charity is also worried about the number of young women who skip the test.
The latest figures show the number of cervical cancer cases in women under the age of 35 has only been higher once since 1996 than it was last year.
A third of women between the ages of 25 and 29 are failing to respond to invitations for tests.
Women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for screening. This happens every three years for those aged 25 to 49 and every five years for those who are between 50 and 64.
In order to mark Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed 2,000 women aged 25 to 29 and 60 to 64.
Cervical cancer screenings misunderstood
One in seven thought the screening checked the health of the womb, while 10 per cent thought it was to detect sexually transmitted diseases.
The charity also found that many women don't know what causes cervical cancer.
Most are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) altering cervical cells, but more than a half of the poll participants were unaware of the link.
"The study shows a clear need to educate women on the causes of cervical cancer and the purpose of cervical screening," said Robert Music, chief executive for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.
"Currently just under 3,000 UK women are diagnosed each year."
Concern screening uptake will continue to fall
Music added: "We are concerned that screening uptake will continue to fall and incidence will start to rise.
"Already we are seeing an increase in incidence for older women and we are very worried that the number of diagnoses amongst women in their late twenties will also go up.
"Annually one in five women in the UK will fail to attend cervical screening.
"Ultimately our message to women who are overdue their next screening would be to seek support and advice if they have any concerns and make it a priority to attend."