(HealthDay News) – For women <21 years old, Papanicolaou (Pap) and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing are unnecessarily high, according to a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Noting that in December 2009, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended that women <21 years old should not receive Pap or HPV tests, Jacqueline M. Hirth, MPH, PhD, from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and colleagues conducted a retrospective secondary data analysis of administrative claims data to examine the frequency of these tests among 178,898 12- to 20-year-old females with a paid claim for a well-woman visit in 2008, 2009, or 2010.

The researchers observed a decrease in Pap testing as part of the well-women exam, from 77% in 2008 and 2009 to 57% by December 2010. HPV testing remained stable across the study period. Pap testing in 2010 correlated with a diagnosis of cervical cell abnormalities in 2009. A stronger association was noted between having a previous Pap test with having a test in 2010.

“These data show that some physicians are adjusting their practices among young women according to ACOG guidelines, but Papanicolaou and HPV testing among insured women <21 years old still remains unnecessarily high,” the authors write.

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