Currently, women in the United States are told to receive their first Pap smears either at age 21 or within three years of having sex, whichever comes first. Now, HealthDay News reports that America is considering raising the age because of a British study that suggests Pap screening at an early age isn’t helpful in detecting cervical cancer.

Researchers from Queen Mary College in London compared 7,889 women who never had cervical cancer with 4,012 women who were diagnosed with the disease between 1990 and 2008. All the women were 20 to 69 years old and resided in the same area.

Study reports indicated that Pap test screening of women aged 22 to 24 did not reduce their incidence of cervical cancer over the next five years. Reports showed that screening for women 30 to 37 years old, however, was linked to a 43 to 60 percent reduced risk of contracting the disease over the same period.

Researchers also found that young women who underwent colposcopy—a detailed exam of the cervix to detect precancerous cells—and surgery to remove abnormal cells found during Pap smears did not experience any benefit from the procedure compared with those women who did nothing.

Moreover, women who had the surgery experienced more physical problems, such as bleeding.

Eduardo Franco, a professor of epidemiology and oncology at McGill University in Montreal, said that the major lesson learned from the study is that not much is gained by aggressively dealing with minor cervical abnormalities found in young women.

New Pap test recommendations will be made by the American Cancer Society in a year, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is expected to issue new age guidelines in the near future.

Check out RH’s “Is Gardasil Good Enough for Your Girls?” to see what two doctors think about the HPV vaccine—developed to protect young women against cervical cancer and genital warts.