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Syst Rev. 2013 May 24;2:35. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-2-35.

Screening for cervical cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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McMaster Evidence Review and Synthesis Centre-MERSC, 1280 Main Street West, DTC-322, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada.



The systematic review on which this paper is based provided evidence for the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to update their guideline regarding screening for cervical cancer. In this article we highlight three questions covered in the full review that pertain to the effectiveness of screening for reducing cervical cancer mortality and incidence as well as optimal timing and frequency of screening.


We searched MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane Central from 1995 to 2012 for relevant randomized controlled trials and observational studies with comparison groups. Eligible studies included women aged 15 to 70 years who were screened using conventional cytology, liquid-based cytology or human papillomavirus DNA tests. Relevance screening, data extraction, risk of bias analyses and quality assessments were performed in duplicate. We conducted a meta-analysis using a random-effects model on the one body of evidence that could be pooled.


From the 15,145 screened citations, 27 papers (24 studies) were included; five older studies located in a United States Preventive Services Task Force review were also included. A randomized controlled trial in India showed even a single lifetime screening test significantly decreased the risk of mortality from and incidence of advanced cervical cancer compared to no screening (mortality: risk ratio 0.65, 95% confidence interval 0.47, 0.90; incidence: relative risk 0.56, 95% confidence interval 0.42, 0.75). Cytology screening was shown to be beneficial in a cohort study that found testing significantly reduced the risk of being diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer compared to no screening (risk ratio 0.38; 95% confidence interval 0.23, 0.63). Pooled evidence from a dozen case-control studies also indicated a significant protective effect of cytology screening (odds ratio 0.35; 95% confidence interval 0.30, 0.41). This review found no conclusive evidence for establishing optimal ages to start and stop cervical screening, or to determine how often to screen; however the available data suggests substantial protective effects for screening women 30 years and older and for intervals of up to five years.


The available evidence supports the conclusion that cervical screening does offer protective benefits and is associated with a reduction in the incidence of invasive cervical cancer and cervical cancer mortality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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