Prevalence and risk factors for lifetime exposure to Pap smear abnormalities in the Australian community

Posner, T. Natasha, Boyle, Frances M., Purdie, David M., Dunne, Michael P., & Najman, Jackob M. (2006) Prevalence and risk factors for lifetime exposure to Pap smear abnormalities in the Australian community. Sexual Health, 3(4), pp. 274-279.

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This study examined the prevalence, correlates and consequences of abnormal Pap smears in a population-based survey of sexuality and health in the Australian community.


Cross-sectional telephone survey of 908 women aged 18–59 years randomly selected from the Commonwealth electoral roll.


Most women (91%) reported having had at least one Pap smear test, a figure directly comparable with national estimates. Being single (prevalence ratio (PR) 4.61; 95% CI 2.09–10.17) and not having had sexual intercourse (PR 5.31, 95% CI 3.11–9.07) were strong predictors of never having been tested. One in four women (26%) who reported being screened also reported having had an abnormal Pap smear result, of whom 66% said they had further testing and 52% some form of treatment. A minority (19%) reported negative effects of treatment on their sex lives. Having been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) (PR 2.87, 95% CI 1.84–4.48), and to a lesser degree, having had a greater number of male sexual partners (PR 1.38, 95% CI 1.01–1.89), and experiencing sexual problems in the last year (PR 0.99, 95% CI 0.99–1.88) were independently associated with reporting of abnormal Pap smear results.


Approximately one in four women self report lifetime exposure to Pap smear abnormalities. It is important that women are well prepared for this common experience. A causal association between multiple sexual partners and risk of acquiring HPV infection is supported by these data.

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ID Code: 9993
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: abnormal results, cervical screening, HPV, population, based survey
DOI: 10.1071/SH05044
ISSN: 1448-5028
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Epidemiology (111706)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Health Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 CSIRO Publishing
Deposited On: 08 Oct 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2015 00:12

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