Women screened with a human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test are half as likely to develop cervical disease over the next six years as those who receive conventional cytology (the Pap "smear"), a new study has shown.
The research followed nearly 3,000 women aged 35 years and older at 40 different GP practices in the UK, and assessed their HPV status using Qiagen's digene HPV test - the only such test that is both CE-marked in Europe and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, adds further support to a proposal to use HPV testing as the sole primary screen in women aged 35-plus, when the risk of cervical cancer is highest.
"These results confirm that HPV DNA testing identifies more women with disease than the Pap," said Professor Jack Cuzick, lead author of the article and professor of epidemiology at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, affiliated with Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London.
In addition to the HPV test's greater ability to accurately identify women with precancerous cervical cells or cancer, its specificity (the likelihood that women with positive results actually have the disease) was similar to that of the Pap.