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In the face of continuing debate about the level of effectiveness of the United Kingdom cervical cytology screening programme in preventing cervical cancer, more precise targeting of high risk groups might offer a means of enhancing its efficiency. Broad risk targeting is already practised by screening only sexually active women aged 20 to 65 years. This paper describes a risk scoring system constructed from the available literature and designed to be used by primary care health professionals and patients. The system involves four independent risk factors: educational level, current smoking habit, years of oral contraceptive use and number of sexual partners. Since the objective is simply to identify women at relatively high risk, inclusion of a factor neither requires nor implies causality. The next steps are to study the feasibility of putting the scale to practical use and to investigate its predictive value in a prospective evaluation.