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Published: 23 April 2024

New study provides insights into HPV prevalence among women attending cervical screening in Ireland

By Dr Mairead O’Connor, Research Officer, National Screening Service

We’ve completed research on the prevalence of HPV in Ireland among women who attended for cervical screening with our CervicalCheck programme.

We introduced primary HPV cervical screening in 2020 and at the same time, we increased the screening age range from 25-60 to 25-65 years. The study aimed to document the prevalence of HPV and screening results among women screened during the first three years since the introduction of HPV screening.

What we did

We reviewed data on the number of HPV screening tests completed and the screening results for the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2023. Women aged 25 to 65 years who had their screening tests taken in primary care settings were included in the study.

What we found

  • The average HPV prevalence over the 3-year period was 11.2%.
  • Prevalence was higher among younger age groups ranging from 33.2% in women aged 25 to 29 to 1.9% in women aged 60 to 65.

Screening results

  • Of those who tested positive for HPV, over half (54.4%) had no abnormal cells detected.
  • Almost 4 in 10 (37.9%) who tested positive for HPV had low-grade abnormal cells detected.
  • Less than 1 in 10 (7.6%) who tested positive for HPV had high-grade abnormal cells detected.
  • The rate of both low-grade and high-grade abnormal cells is higher in younger women and decreases with age.

What this tells us

This study provides useful insights into the prevalence of HPV in Ireland and cervical screening results among women screened during the first three years of HPV cervical screening. HPV prevalence decreases with age and screening results emphasise the importance of regular HPV cervical screening among the eligible population.