DNA test could reduce cancer deaths

Pap smears should be supplemented by DNA tests, say researchers who argue that this will cut cervical cancer deaths dramatically

DNA tests may be the best way to screen women over 30 for cervical cancer, say researchers.

By testing women for the presence of DNA from the human papilloma virus (HPV), alongside the conventional smear test, Dutch researchers found that any cell changes could be detected far more effectively.

‘Importantly, this is the second study to show that including HPV [DNA] testing as the main screening method not only improves detection of precancerous changes, but also cuts cancer rates,’ says Study author Professor Jack Cuzick, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist.

‘Based on the latest evidence, the HPV test would be the most effective way to detect cervical abnormalities in all women over 30.’

The major trial, which has been named POBASCAM, found that DNA tests would mean doctors could detect signs of cervical cancer much earlier and improve chances of survival.

Studying 45,000 women in the Netherlands who attended routine cervical screening, they found that those given HPV tests had a lower chance of developing the cancer.

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