A study published in the Lancet found an at-home test for human papillomavirus (HPV) to be very effective and could be particularly useful in regions where women do not have access to pap tests, used to diagnose the infection.  According to the researchers, the do-it-yourself tests were four times more likely to detect cases of cervical cancer and three times more likely to identify pre-cancerous cells, or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

Attila Lorincz, one of the researchers, stated, “Unlike many forms of disease, we can actually prevent cervical cancer—but only if women have access to screening or if younger girls are vaccinated against the virus…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.” Nevertheless, the researchers noted that the test produced more false-positives than tests administered at a doctors’ office, and they called for more research concerning at-home HPV screening. The study examined over 20,000 women between the ages of 25 and 65.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that over one-third of American women are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) by the age of 24. While the majority of HPV strains are benign, some strains can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. About 2.2 percent of infected women have a strain that is high-risk for cervical cancer, the recent research finds. Gardasil, which prevents cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18, was approved by the FDA in June 2006.

National Partnership for Women and Families 11/3/11; The Lancet 11/2/11;  Reuters 11/1/11; Feminist Daily Newswire 10/26/11

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