Giving women who smoke advice on quitting when they go for cervical smear tests could be an effective way of saving even more lives – according to new research published today (Tuesday 3 April) in the British Journal of Cancer. If introduced, the measure could benefit hundreds of thousands of women every year.

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, found that brief stop smoking advice, given by trained practice nurses as part of routine cervical screening, increased women’s intention to quit. Previous research shows that increased intention to quit is a good indicator that people actually will.

Smoking is a well known cause of lung cancer and other life-threatening diseases. But it also doubles a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. Women who smoke are more likely to have abnormal smears, and the pre-cancerous cell changes associated with these are less likely to respond to treatment.

Lead researcher, Professor Theresa Marteau, who is based at King’s College London, said: “Many women don’t know that smoking is a major risk factor for cervical cancer. Yet, at the moment, advice on quitting isn’t routinely given when women attend smear test appointments.

“Our research showed that giving stop smoking advice not only increased women’s intention to quit, but that this motivation remained high over a considerable period of time.”

More than 240 women who smoke took part in the study. Half were given verbal stop smoking advice by nurses during their appointments, the other half were not. When asked two and ten weeks later, women who received the advice stated a greater intention to quit.

Importantly, the women said being given stop smoking advice would not deter them from attending future screening appointments.

Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, which owns the British Journal of Cancer, said: “The cervical screening programme is incredibly successful and saves thousands of lives. But this research indicates that, by offering women who smoke quick advice on giving up, it could save many more.

“Although this study only measured ‘intention to quit’ there’s good evidence that increased intention leads to more people following through to successfully give up for good. Cancer Research UK would like to see stop smoking advice become a routine part of smear test appointments for all women who smoke.”


For media enquiries, contact Sophy Fitzpatrick in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8318 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


Hall S, Reid E, Ukoumunne OC, Weinman J, Marteau TM, 2007. British Journal of Cancer Volume 96, Issue 7. “Brief smoking cessation advice from practice nurses during routine cervical smear tests appointments: a cluster randomised controlled trial assessing feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness”.

In 2005/06, 3.6 million women of all ages were screened, the majority after a formal invitation from the screening programme. For more information about the national cervical cancer screening programme, visit:

The cervical screening programme saves 4,500 lives every year.

Each year in the UK, almost 2,800 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Of those, 1,100 die from the disease.

Approximately 5.8 million women in the UK smoke.

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