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A study of 1.3 million women found the shorter break stopped as many cancers, even in those who had not had the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab.
In 2019, NHS screening changed so patients get an HPV test first – then their cervical cells are looked at only after a positive result.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, showed this system more accurately spotted high-risk cases than cytology tests.
Dr Matejka Rebolj, of King’s College London, said the results mean “we can prevent just as many cancers while allowing for fewer screens”.
The National Screening Committee recommends the interval for younger women now be changed to five years, but the NHS has yet to implement this.
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