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Cervical cancer test accuracy improves

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A trial of a new cervical cancer test has demostrated improved detection of pre-cancerous cells in women whose smear tests had come back normal, scientists have indicated.

Researchers from Britain and America found that in a study of 47,000 women more than one in 10 women aged 30 tested positive for HPV genotypes 16 and/or 18 and had pre-cancerous cells in their cervix - although their smear test was normal.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common group of viruses, and some types are known to increase the risk of developing particular cancers. HPV infection is the main risk factor of cervical cancer. Persistent HPV infections can cause pre-cancerous and cancerous cells to develop in the cervix.

The NHS introduced cervical cancer screening in 1988 aimed at women aged 20 to 65. Women are currently invited to attend screening every three or five years depending on age, with patients being recalled if the smear appears abnormal.

Smears allow for examination of cells from the cervix to detect abnormalities that could lead to cervical cancer.

Healthcare company Roche, which carried out the trial, claimed the new test highlights the limitations of relying on examining and assessing the appearance of cervical cells under a microscope, as is the traditional method.

Scientists believe the new test could provide early detection of pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, reducing the risk of cervical cancer.

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