Human Papillomavirus DNA Testing as an Adjunct to Cytology in Cervical Screening Programs

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2003 Aug;127(8):959-68. doi: 10.1043/1543-2165(2003)127<959:HPDTAA>2.0.CO;2.


Our objective was to review current large studies of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing as an adjunct to the Papanicolaou test for cervical cancer screening programs. We analyzed 10 large screening studies that used the Hybrid Capture 2 test and 3 studies that used the polymerase chain reaction test in a manner that enabled reliable estimates of accuracy for detecting or predicting high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Most studies allowed comparison of HPV DNA and Papanicolaou testing and estimates of the performance of Papanicolaou and HPV DNA as combined tests. The studies were selected on the basis of a sufficient number of cases of high-grade CIN and cancer to provide meaningful statistical values. Investigators had to demonstrate the ability to generate reasonably reliable Hybrid Capture 2 or polymerase chain reaction data that were either minimally biased by nature of study design or that permitted analytical techniques for addressing issues of study bias to be applied. Studies had to provide data for the calculation of test sensitivity, specificity, predictive values, odds ratios, relative risks, confidence intervals, and other relevant measures. Final data were abstracted directly from published articles or estimated from descriptive statistics presented in the articles. In some studies, new analyses were performed from raw data supplied by the principal investigators. We concluded that HPV DNA testing was a more sensitive indicator for prevalent high-grade CIN than either conventional or liquid cytology. A combination of HPV DNA and Papanicolaou testing had almost 100% sensitivity and negative predictive value. The specificity of the combined tests was slightly lower than the specificity of the Papanicolaou test alone, but this decrease could potentially be offset by greater protection from neoplastic progression and cost savings available from extended screening intervals. One "double-negative" HPV DNA and Papanicolaou test indicated better prognostic assurance against risk of future CIN 3 than 3 subsequent negative conventional Papanicolaou tests and may safely allow 3-year screening intervals for such low-risk women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervix Uteri / pathology*
  • Cervix Uteri / virology*
  • Cytodiagnosis / methods
  • DNA Probes, HPV* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / pathology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • DNA Probes, HPV