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Many Women Can Have Cervical Cancer Test Every 3 Years: Study
Date:5/19/2011

California health plan who were undergoing both types of tests between 2003 and 2005 and who were followed for five years after being tested.

The estimated five-year risk for developing cervical cancer was 7.5 per 100,000 women in those who had normal Pap smears, versus a much lower 3.8 per 100,000 for women who were negative on the HPV test.

When the two tests were performed together with both yielding negative results, the estimated risk was 3.2 per 100,000 women, meaning that the HPV test alone is almost as good as the two combined.

"A single negative HPV test [predicted] an extremely low cancer risk for women [which] was not appreciably lowered by having a normal Pap test," said lead author Hormuzd Katki, principal investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

That means that women who test negative on the HPV test alone might be able to extend their screening intervals to three years with no adverse consequences, Katki added.

"This generates the question, should HPV testing become the standard at some point," Bevers said.

This might be especially important in developing countries that often don't have the capability to interpret Pap tests, Bevers said.

"HPV testing is much easier," she added. "It's kind of like doing a pregnancy test at home. It's positive or negative."

There is still a role, however, for the Pap test -- to follow up a positive HPV test, said Katki. "The Pap test can identify women who have more immediate disease," he said.

"But many women equate a Pap smear with their annual gynecological exam and one of the arguments against three-year screening intervals is that women would no longer see their doctor every year and get other necessary tests, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and testing for sexually transmitted infections," Capen said.

Capen, though, thinks that won't happen. "Young women may be on the pill or they m
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