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Gene-Based Screen Spots Cervical Cancer Earlier

It could lengthen the time needed between tests, researchers say

THURSDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to conventional tests, human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing enables earlier detection of lesions that lead to cervical cancer, Dutch researchers say.

That means women could go longer between screenings, say researchers at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The study included more than 17,000 women ages 29 to 56. Of those, close to 8,600 were assigned to receive HPV DNA testing to detect the high-risk types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. The other half underwent conventional cytological testing. Five years later, both groups of women received both cytological and HPV DNA testing.

At the start of the study, more CIN3+ lesions (cervical cancer and its most serious precursor lesions) were detected in women who had HPV DNA testing (68 of 8,575) than in those who had conventional cytological testing (40 of 8,580). Five years later, fewer CIN3+ lesions were detected in the women who'd had HPV DNA testing (24 of 8,413) than in those who'd had conventional cytological testing (56 of 8,456).

While the number of lesions detected over the two rounds of testing didn't differ between the groups, the lesions were detected earlier in the HPV DNA testing group, the researchers said.

"Our results show that implementation of HPV DNA testing in cervical screening leads to earlier detection of clinically relevant cervical lesions. On the basis of this data, we suggest that the current screening interval of five years could be extended by at least one year. The extension will be advantageous to women because of a reduction in the lifetime number of screening tests and referrals," the study authors wrote.

"A full cost-effectiveness analysis will help to determine whether primary HPV testing alone is the preferred strategy for primary cervical screening," they concluded.

The study was published in The Lancet medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about cervical cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Oct. 3, 2007

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