THOUSANDS of younger women across Sussex are putting themselves at risk by not getting tested for cervical cancer.

About a third of 25-29 year-olds in the county have not accepted an invite to have a screening, which could pick up the early signs of the condition.

Cervical cancer kills about 1,000 people in the UK every year.

Figures from NHS England show that in one year, just under 60% of Brighton and Hove women in this age group were tested, while in West Sussex it rose to just under 67%.

The average for East Sussex was slightly higher, at 70%, but experts say this still means a significant number of people are at risk.

Reasons for not having a check include women believing they do not need a test, forgetting they have an appointment or having recently moved away.

It is also believed an increase in take-up which followed the death of 27-year-old reality TV star Jade Goody in 2009 has now fallen off.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

A HPV vaccine programme has been introduced for schoolgirls but older women who left school before the scheme started still need regular checks.

All women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening as part of a national NHS programme.

Regular screening looks at any changes in the cells of the cervix so abnormalities can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing.

NHS England screening and immunisation manager for Sussex, Nicholas Kendall, said: “Screening programmes are an important part of healthcare and disease prevention. We’ve seen success with cervical screening over the years, but we cannot afford to become complacent.

“Young women are most at risk of developing cervical cancer but worryingly least likely to take up the offer of cervical screening.

“However, the important fact is that early detection is the best way to protect women.”

It is estimated early detection and treatment can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancer.

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