WEDNESDAY, April 28, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors can detect more serious precancerous lesions in the cervix by testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) than through conventional cervical screening with a Pap smear, a new study suggests.
HPV, a common sexually transmitted disease, can cause cancers such as cervical cancer. The disease is especially prevalent in young women.
In the new study, led by Ahti Anttila of the Finnish Cancer Registry, researchers studied the experiences of 58,282 women aged 30 to 60 who took part in routine cervical screening between 2003 and 2005.
The women were randomly assigned to receive an HPV test or a Pap smear test. The researchers then tracked the women for five years.
The HPV screening tests did a better job at detecting serious precancerous lesions on the surface of the cervix, known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN III), according to the report published online April 28 in the BMJ.
The researchers cautioned that they didn't detect very many cervical cancer cases. Still, they wrote, "considering the high probability of progression of CIN III lesions in women aged 35 years or more, our results are important for prevention of cervical cancer."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cervical cancer.