DNA testing may be a more effective way to catch symptoms of Ã‚Â the human papillomavirus (HPV) than Pap smears, says a study published this week in "The Lancet Oncology."
Researchers from the Netherlands looked at nearly 45,000 women aged 29 to 56, who were randomly given either a Pap smear, DNA test, or, in some cases, both. The study took place over a five-year period, with researchers screening each woman twice. Researchers found that more pre-cancerous cells were identified with the HPV DNA tests than with Paps alone. Those pre-cancerous cells, if left alone, could develop into cervical cancer.
At the end of the five year screening period, fewer women who received the DNA testing had serious pre-cancers or full-blown cervical cancer than those who received Pap smears.
The DNA testing is mainly encouraged for women ages 30 and older. According to the American Cancer Society, HPV is so common in younger women (they estimate eight out of 10 women who have sex will contract HPV at some point) that the DNA testing may not be very helpful.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007, and more than 4,000 women died from it. Because of this new data, however, some organizations are now reconsidering their HPV screening guidelines. What do you think? Will you ask for an HPV DNA test?
To find out how to prevent HPV and protect yourself from cervical cancer, check out our Spotlight on Cervical Cancer.