Two Better Than One

HPV and pap smears more effective for women over 30

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It used to be that your annual OB/GYN check included a pap smear. For women over the age of 30, a study shows new recommendations may be in order.

Having both a pap smear (cervical cytology) and a test for human papillomavirus (HPV) is found to be more effective than a pap smear alone for women aged 30 and older. Other findings of recent National Cancer Institute study may lead to updated recommendations

"Ask your doctor how often you should be screened for cervical cancer."

A study involving 319,177 women found co-testing - having both a pap smear and HPV test - is best for women in their 30s.

Other findings of this study included:

  • Having both tests resulted in earlier detection of  adenocarcinoma, a form of cervical cancer.
  • If no abnormalities have shown up in either of these tests, it's  safe for women to have three-year screenings.
  • A single negative test for HPV reassures against cervical cancer for five years.
  • HPV tests without pap smears may be sensitive enough as a primary screening for cervical cancer.

The National Cancer Institute study looked at incidence of cervical cancer and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN3) or worse over a five-year period, starting in 2003-2005.

The study was published in The Lancet: Oncology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 8, 2011
Last Updated:
October 21, 2012