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HPV screen beats Pap smear

Human papillomavirus test reduces cervical cancer risk in women over age 30 better than a standard test

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4:58pm, April 1, 2009

A test for human papillomavirus infection is better than the standard Pap smear at catching cervical cancer early, researchers report. The study of women age 30 and over makes the case for changing cervical cancer screening practices, particularly in low-income countries, since the screening test for HPV would necessitate fewer doctor visits, scientists report in the April 2 New England Journal of Medicine.

“The implications of the findings of this trial are immediate and global,” declare Mark Schiffman and Sholom Wacholder of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., in the same issue of NEJM. HPV testing should now be widely implemented in poor countries, they say.

Researchers randomly assigned more than 130,000 women age 30 to 59 in rural India to one of four equal-sized groups. Three groups underwent screening for signs of cervical cancer. Of those, some received a test for HPV types known to cause the cancer, others

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