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Mexican Department of Public Health to Launch Screening for Papillomavirus, Cause of Cervical Cancer

World's First National Cervical Cancer Screening Program to Use QIAGEN Test

MEXICO CITY, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ --In a campaign to significantly reduce the most common cancer affecting Mexican women, the Mexican Public Health Agency (Secretaria de Salud) announced today that it is launching the first phase of a program that will offer free testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer, to all low-income women age 35-65. In the first phase of the screening program, expected to begin this week, 200,000 women in the lowest-income 125 counties will be offered the papillomavirus test along with the traditional Pap smear. Early next year, the pilot program will be expanded to include another 600,000 women in the 20 states with the highest death rate from cervical cancer. It is hoped that if the program goes well, the remaining eight Mexican states will join the program later in 2009.

"Every year, more than 9,000 Mexican women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly half of them die. Yet this is an entirely preventable disease," said Peer Schatz, CEO of QIAGEN (Nasdaq: QGEN; Frankfurt, Prime Standard: QIA), the company that developed the digene(R)HPV Test, which will be used in the SSA's program and is the only such test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "The Mexican government is taking a leadership role in Latin America, and the world, and QIAGEN is committed to joining with the SSA to assure that our advanced screening technology is accessible to women everywhere, no matter what their income level or social class."

Papillomavirus is a very common infection. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 11 percent of Mexican women carry cervical HPV at any given time. In the majority of women, the virus goes away or is suppressed by the body before it causes any problems. However, in others, the infection lingers and can cause abnormal cells to form. While the traditional Pap smear is usually able to find abnormal cells, it sometimes misses them. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that about one-third of invasive cervical cancers developed in women whose smears had appeared normal. In contrast, HPV testing detects the presence of the virus itself. In the national norms for cervical cancer prevention, which were updated in 2007, physicians are advised that they can supplement the Pap with HPV testing in women 25-65 for additional protection. If abnormal cells are diagnosed early, they can be removed before they develop into cervical cancer.

Worldwide, cervical cancer affects an estimated 500,000 women annually. It is estimated that 6 million women a year will be eligible for HPV testing through the Mexican public health system once the screening program becomes national. An additional 1 million women could access the test using private insurance.

"Reduction of health inequities among the Mexican people is a top priority of my administration, and a primary target is cervical cancer, a disease affecting the most vulnerable and poorest women in the country," said Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "It is the only cancer that could be eliminated if the most effective medical advances are accessible to everyone who needs them, and that includes HPV testing. While the new HPV vaccines will be important in the future, women today need the best screening possible."

About HPV and cervical cancer ( and

Worldwide, cervical cancer affects nearly 500,000 women annually and, after breast cancer, is the second-most-common malignancy found in women. Cervical cancer is caused by "high-risk" types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). It's estimated that 80 percent of women will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. However, in most cases, the infection goes away or is suppressed by the body without causing problems. It is only infections that persist that can cause abnormal cells to form that may develop into cervical cancer if not detected and treated early. In Mexico, current estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that 12,516 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and 5,777 die from the disease.

About QIAGEN (

QIAGEN NV is the leading global provider of sample and assay technologies, with its global headquarters in the Netherlands. Sample technologies are used to isolate and process DNA, RNA and proteins from biological samples such as blood or tissue, and assays make these isolated molecules visible to facilitate such vital activities as biological research and detection of disease. QIAGEN has developed and markets more than 500 products as well as instruments that make their use more efficient and accurate. The company provides its products to molecular diagnostics laboratories, academic researchers, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and applied testing customers for purposes such as forensics, animal or food testing and pharmaceutical process control. QIAGEN's assay technologies include one of the broadest panels of molecular diagnostic tests available worldwide, including the only FDA-approved test for human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer. QIAGEN employs more than 2,600 people in over 30 locations worldwide.

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