October 19, 2007
Human papillomavirus tests are more accurate than Pap tests in the detection of cervical cancer and precancerous changes in the cervix, according to two studies published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Wall Street Journal reports (Tomsho, Wall Street Journal, 10/18).
For one of the studies, Canadian researchers led by Eduardo Franco of McGill University performed a DNA test that detects HPV and a Pap test on 10,154 women ages 30 to 69. The HPV test detected 95% of cases in which participants had precancerous changes in the cervix, compared with 55% for the Pap test, the study found (Emery, Reuters, 10/17). However, the HPV test had a false positive rate of 6%, compared with 3% for the Pap test, according to the study.
The researchers recommended a shift from the Pap test to the HPV test as the primary detection method for cervical cancer (Gellene, Los Angeles Times, 10/18). Franco said that the DNA test costs about $90, compared with $10 to $20 for the Pap test, although mass production of the DNA test could help reduce the cost.
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