Four women in the HPV/Pap group were diagnosed with cervical cancer, while 14 in the Pap-only group were.
When they looked at cervical cancer or advanced lesions, 88 in the HPV arm of the study were diagnosed with one or the other compared to 122 in the Pap-alone arm.
The improved protection against advanced lesions, the researchers said, is due to the earlier detection of the precursor lesions. When they were treated, it helped prevent them from progressing.
In an accompanying commentary, scientists from the U.S. National Cancer Institute wrote that the Dutch trial does show the five-year screening interval is safe. But they added that it is unclear if the same results would hold true in a different population with different testing guidelines.
The HPV test can be done using the same specimen collected for the Pap test, Meijer said.
Costs of the tests differ. Meijer said Pap smears are about $38 in the Netherlands, while an HPV test costs about $64. However, the Dutch Minister of Health recently recommended lowering the cost of an HPV test to below that of the traditional Pap.
The new study is "further defining how we can incorporate HPV testing into our screening program," said Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.
She noted that she doesn't think the HPV screen will replace the Pap test completely. "It may turn out to be a first-line screen. Stay tuned for more," she said. "Certainly ask your physician if you've had HPV."
In October, three U.S. cancer groups proposed new guidelines for cervical cancer testing, extending intervals between screenings and making other changes. These guidelines, issued by the American Cancer Society and others, call for combination HPV/Pap smear testing for women aged 30 and older.
After three normal Paps, women over 30 can have the tes
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