New DNA tests looking for the virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer make sense for all women aged 30 or over, since they can prevent more cases of cancer than Pap smears alone, Dutch researchers say.
Results of a five-year study involving 45,000 women provided the strongest evidence yet in favor of using human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, Dr. Chris Meijer and colleagues from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam reported in The Lancet Oncology on December 15.
In recent years, tests for high-risk HPV strains have been developed by companies including Roche and Qiagen.
The new tests are known to work well in detecting HPV, but the Dutch study is the first to show they are better than Pap smears alone over two screening rounds set five years apart.
The researchers, who looked at women aged 29 to 56, said use of HPV tests led to earlier detection of pre-cancerous lesions, allowing for treatment that improved protection against cancer.
Dr. Hormuzd Katki and Dr. Nicolas Wentzensen from the U.S. National Cancer Institute said the results reinforced earlier findings, and provided “overwhelming evidence” of the benefits of including HPV testing in cervical screening programs.
The government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently urges women who have been sexually active and have a cervix to get Pap smears at least every three years. However, the group recommends against routinely screening women over 65 if they had normal results on a recent Pap smear.
Lancet Oncol, 2011.
— Reuters Health Information0