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HPV Test better at Detecting Cervical Cancer than the Pap Smear

Update Date: Jul 21, 2014 03:54 PM EDT

According to new research, the traditional Pap smear might no longer be the way to go for detecting cervical cancer. Researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) concluded that the HPV test was more effective than the Pap smear in determining low cancer risk.

In this study, the team headed by Julia Gage, a research fellow in the NCI's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics, looked at data on women between the ages of 30 and 64 from California. The women had all undergone an HPV test as well as a Pap smear from 2003 to 2012.

"What we wanted to see is whether primary HPV screening could be a good alternative to Pap and compare it to cotesting," Gage said according to FOX News.

The researchers compared both tests' effectiveness in predicting women's risk of developing cervical cancer within three years. They found that a negative HPV test was more effective in determining a woman's cancer risk than the Pap. The incidence rate for cervical cancer was 11 per 100,000 women who received a negative HPV test and 20 per 100,000 women who had gotten a Pap smear.

Currently, the guidelines recommend doctors to perform both screening tests when assessing cervical cancer if necessary. For women between the ages of 21 to 65, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends getting a pap smear every three years. For women between the ages of 30 and 65, the task force also recommends women to get co-tested once every five years or just one pap smear every three years. These recommendations apply to women with normal results.

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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