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Inadequate smears raise cancer risk

Women whose Pap smears are inadequate could have as much as double the risk of developing cervical cancer as the general screening population, new research suggests.

Researchers at West Midlands hospitals looked at 1,972 inadequate cervical smears among 25,000 taken at Walsall Hospitals NHS trust in the year from April 1995. They followed up subsequent smears and biopsies taken from these patients over five years.

In 2.2 per cent of inadequate smears, cervical cancer was eventually diagnosed. This rose to 2.6 per cent where the smear was obscured by inflammatory cells ­ double the 1.3 per cent cancer risk of all women whose smears were sent to the same laboratory.

Study lead Dr Ye Lin Hock, a consultant histopathologist at Manor Hospital in Walsall, said it was a 'plausible hypothesis' an abundance of inflammatory cells could indicate a cancer-causing infection.

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