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HPV Tests More Sensitive Than Cytology for Cervical Cancer

Authors suggest human papillomavirus testing should replace cytology

WEDNESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing may be more sensitive than cytology in detecting grade 2 or higher cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), according to a report published online in the International Journal of Cancer. The authors suggest HPV testing should replace cytology, the current standard for cervical cancer screening.

Jack Cuzick, Ph.D., of Cancer Research UK in London, and colleagues collected data from more than 60,000 patients in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and Canada who underwent both cytology and HPV screening. The sensitivity and specificity of the two methods were compared, both overall and by age.

HPV testing was found to be substantially more sensitive at all ages, but less specific than cytology for detecting CIN2 or higher cancer (96.1 percent versus 53 percent sensitivity and 90.7 percent versus 96.3 percent specificity, respectively). HPV positivity varied by age and region, and was highest in women in their early- to mid-20s in the United States.

"These results support the use of HPV testing as the sole primary screening test, with cytology reserved for women who test HPV positive," the authors conclude. However, they suggest larger studies should evaluate the strategy.

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