Middle-aged women can safely go ten years between cervical screening tests if they test negative for HPV, research suggests.
A Government-funded trial looked at data from 24,500 British women who had been tested for HPV testing alongside their routine smear test.
It found women over 40 who tested negative for HPV - a virus that causes almost all cervical cancer cases - did not need to be screened for another decade.
The study also found younger women with a negative HPV test could go longer than the current three years between appointments.
It comes as smear test attendance is known to be at an all-time low — just 71 per cent of those invited go for their smear, NHS figures show.
NHS England announced it is adding HPV testing onto the standard smear tests by 2020. They are currently not offered but will be rolled out starting in July this year.
NHS Scotland will roll out HPV testing onto the standard smear tests starting in January 2020. In Wales, the tests have been running since September 2018.
The 10-minute tests, considered embarrassing by many, take a sample of cells from a woman's cervix – the connection between the vaginal canal and the womb.