In a retrospective case-control study, we investigated high-risk HPV DNA presence by general primer GP5+/6+ PCR in the last normal cervical smear in the patient archives (i.e. baseline smear) of 57 women who later developed cervical cancer. Also, normal cervical smears of 114 age-matched control women were analysed. High-risk HPV DNA was detected in 37 of the 57 (65%) baseline smears of the case women, and 7 (6%) of 114 smears of the control women (OR 28, 95% Cl 11-72). The HPV positive subsequent smears and cervical cancer biopsies of the case women contained the same HPV type as was detected in the baseline smear. After cytological revision, the baseline smears of 48 case women (84%) were reclassified as abnormal, 33 (69%) of which scored high-risk HPV DNA positive. Ultimately, an undisputable normal baseline smear was found in only 10 case women. In 7 (70%) of them this smear was HPV positive, whereas only 7 (7%) of 104 revised, undisputable normal smears of control women were high-risk HPV positive (OR 32, 95% Cl 6.8-153). The results showed that (1) high-risk HPV presence precedes abnormal cytology in women who develop cervical cancer, and (2) high-risk HPV testing signals false-negative smears of women at risk of cervical cancer.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.