November 3, 2011 — An at-home test for human papillomavirus appears to be highly effective in detecting cervical cancer and could prove effective in areas where women lack access to Pap tests, according to a study published in the Lancet, Reuters reports (Kelland, Reuters, 11/1).
Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London studied more than 20,000 women ages 25 through 65 in low-income areas in Mexico. About 46% of the participants were assigned to take a recently developed HPV test at home, and 54% were told to go to a local clinic for a Pap test (Smith, MedPage Today, 11/1).
The study found that the home test detected four times as many cases of cervical cancer, and more than three times as many cases of a pre-cancerous condition called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Crucially, uptake for the at-home test was higher than for the smear test, suggesting that women prefer this type of screening.
"Our findings show that women are happy to take the test and that it is very sensitive at picking up women who are at risk of developing cancer. This sensitivity is vital for a woman who may only get tested once or twice in her life," researcher Attila Lorincz said.
Researchers noted that the test could be valuable in countries where Pap tests are not available. However, the researchers also said the at-home test produced more false positives than the Pap test and suggested that further research be conducted to address the issue (Reuters, 11/1).