In a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (MD, USA) have suggested that a negative primary HPV test may predict lower cervical cancer risk than a primary Pap test.
In the US, the two recommended cervical screening strategies are primary Pap testing every 3 years, or concurrent Pap and HPV testing every 5 years. In this study, researchers aimed to investigate whether HPV testing alone may be more reliable than primary Pap testing and as reliable as cotesting.
The team predicted and compared the risks of cervical cancer and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 or worse for the three strategies using data from 1,011,092 women aged 30–64 years at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (CA, USA). All individuals involved were screened with both HPV and Pap testing since 2003. It was observed that the 3-year cancer risks following a negative HPV test alone were lower than the 3-year risks following a negative Pap result. The 3-year cancer risks after a negative HPV test alone were similar to the 5-year cancer risk with a negative HPV/Pap cotest.
This study suggests that primary HPV testing every 3 years may be more effective as a cervical screening strategy than Pap testing every 3 years and cotesting every 5 years.
Sources: Gage JC, Schiffman M, Katki H et al. Reassurance Against Future Risk of Precancer and Cancer Conferred by a Negative Human Papillomavirus Test. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, DOI: 10.1093/jnci/dju153 (2014); National Cancer Institute press release