A new study has found a substantial increase in the number of women younger than 26 who have received a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer.

Researchers concluded that it is most likely the effect of the Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the number of uninsured young adults by allowing dependents to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. 

The researchers used data from the National Cancer Data Base, a hospital-based registry of about 70% of all cancer cases in the United States. They compared diagnoses for women aged 21–25 who had cervical cancer with women aged 26–34, before and after the health law provision began in 2010. 

Early-stage diagnoses increased substantially among the younger group, the one covered by the law, and stayed flat among the older group. About 84% of the younger group of women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer had early-stage diagnoses in 2011, compared with 68% in 2009. Early-stage diagnoses dropped to 72% in this group in 2012, which the researchers said was typical of increases in screenings because many early-stage cases had been diagnosed. The increase in the diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer was important because early diagnosis improves the prospects for survival: treatment is more effective and the chance of remission is higher. It also increases the chances for preserving a woman’s fertility during treatment. 

The researchers concluded that the increase in early-stage diagnoses was an effect of the law.