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HPV tests may aid cancer screenings

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British scientists say that cervical cancer screening intervals could be extended for women aged 30 and over if doctors replaced smear tests with human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.

Research into different screening methods found that HPV tests were extremely accurate in detecting early signs of cervical cancer as well as picking up more serious abnormalities, compared with conventional smear tests in women aged 30 and over.

Jack Cuzick, a professor of epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London, who worked on the study, said: “Using HPV testing as the primary screening method for cervical cancer would not only mean women could be screened less often but it would also mean efficiency savings.”

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world, and has more than 100 different strains. Some of these just cause genital warts but others are linked to cervical cancer.

Cuzick’s study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, involved 11,000 women in the UK. Each woman gave two samples, with one analysed using the conventional cytology method, while the other was sent for HPV testing.

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