tests aren't intended to replace the Pap test or to screen women younger
than 30 who have normal Pap tests, according to the FDA.
October, Canadian researchers reported that the HPV test trumps the Pap
test at detecting precancerous cells.
Now, two new studies suggest that if a woman tests positive for HPV --
especially if she's younger than 35 -- it might be appropriate for her to wait
a year to see if her HPV infection clears up before she gets more cervical
The first study included more than 49,000 women in Italy. They either got an
HPV test or a Pap test.
Among women aged 35-60, HPV testing was more sensitive than the Pap test at
predicting which women developed precancerous cervical cells.
But HPV infection is more common in younger women. And in the Italian study,
women aged 25-34 who tested positive for HPV often had fleeting HPV infections
that didn't lead to abnormal cervical cells.
The researchers suggest that women younger than 35 who test positive for HPV
get another HPV test a year later, and only get further cervical cancer
screening if they still have HPV.
The second study, conducted in Costa Rica, confirms that HPV infections
often clear up, and that persistent HPV infections are riskier.
"These findings suggest that the medical community should emphasize the
persistence of cervical HPV infection, not single-time detection of HPV," write
the National Cancer Institute's Ana Cecilia Rodriguez, MD, and colleagues.