HPV Test More Accurate At Detecting Cervical Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture

Human papillomavirus tests are more accurate than Pap tests in thedetection of cervical cancer and precancerous changes in the cervix,according to two studies published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Wall Street Journal reports (Tomsho, Wall Street Journal, 10/18).

For one of the studies, Canadian researchers led by Eduardo Franco of McGill Universityperformed a DNA test that detects HPV and a Pap test on 10,154 womenages 30 to 69. The HPV test detected 95% of cases in which participantshad precancerous changes in the cervix, compared with 55% for the Paptest, the study found (Emery, Reuters, 10/17). However, the HPV test had a false positive rate of 6%, compared with 3% for the Pap test, according to the study.

Theresearchers recommended a shift from the Pap test to the HPV test asthe primary detection method for cervical cancer (Gellene, Los Angeles Times,10/18). Franco said that the DNA test costs about $90, compared with$10 to $20 for the Pap test, although mass production of the DNA testcould help reduce the cost.


Swedish Study

For the second study, Swedish researchers led by Pontus Naucler of Lund University performed the tests on 12,527 women in their 30s (Reuters,10/17). The researchers divided participants into two groups, one thatreceived both tests and one that received only the Pap test, andtracked them for an average of four years.

At the start of thestudy, researchers detected 51% more cases of cervical cancer orprecancerous changes in the cervix in the group that received bothtests, but they detected about the same number of cases in both groupsby the end of the study. The study did not determine whether theearlier detection with the HPV test increased life expectancy forparticipants (Los Angeles Times, 10/18).

FDA has approved only one HPV test, USA Today reports (Rubin, USA Today, 10/18). Digene'sDNA Pap test -- which combines the traditional Pap test with a DNA testfor 13 strains of HPV -- was approved by FDA in as a primary screeningtool for cervical cancer for women ages 30 and older (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/5).

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