A systematic review of the available evidence on the role of HPV testing in cervical screening has been published by the Health Technology Assessment Committee of the UK Department of Health. The review summarized relevant data on testing methods, natural history, and prevalence of the virus in different disease groups. Cost-effectiveness modelling was undertaken. Ten major conclusions were reached and are reported here. The key conclusions were that HPV testing was more sensitive than cytology, but that there were concerns about specificity, especially in young women. The increased sensitivity led to a recommendation that HPV testing be introduced on a pilot basis for women with borderline and mild smears. HPV testing has great potential as a primary screening test, but large trials are needed to properly evaluate this application and to determine if its introduction can reduce invasive cancer rates. There is an urgent need to undertake a large trial of HPV testing in conjunction with other new technologies (liquid-based cytology and computer-assisted cytology reading) to determine the best way to integrate them into ongoing screening programmes. A range of issues including the age to start and stop screening, the appropriate screening interval, the role of self-sampling for HPV testing and the choice of primary test (HPV and/or cytology) require further evaluation.
Copyright 2000 Cancer Research Campaign.