HPV screening for cervical cancer in rural India

N Engl J Med. 2009 Apr 2;360(14):1385-94. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0808516.


Background: In October 1999, we began to measure the effect of a single round of screening by testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), cytologic testing, or visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA) on the incidence of cervical cancer and the associated rates of death in the Osmanabad district in India.

Methods: In this cluster-randomized trial, 52 clusters of villages, with a total of 131,746 healthy women between the ages of 30 and 59 years, were randomly assigned to four groups of 13 clusters each. The groups were randomly assigned to undergo screening by HPV testing (34,126 women), cytologic testing (32,058), or VIA (34,074) or to receive standard care (31,488, control group). Women who had positive results on screening underwent colposcopy and directed biopsies, and those with cervical precancerous lesions or cancer received appropriate treatment.

Results: In the HPV-testing group, cervical cancer was diagnosed in 127 subjects (of whom 39 had stage II or higher), as compared with 118 subjects (of whom 82 had advanced disease) in the control group (hazard ratio for the detection of advanced cancer in the HPV-testing group, 0.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.32 to 0.69). There were 34 deaths from cancer in the HPV-testing group, as compared with 64 in the control group (hazard ratio, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.33 to 0.83). No significant reductions in the numbers of advanced cancers or deaths were observed in the cytologic-testing group or in the VIA group, as compared with the control group. Mild adverse events were reported in 0.1% of screened women.

Conclusions: In a low-resource setting, a single round of HPV testing was associated with a significant reduction in the numbers of advanced cervical cancers and deaths from cervical cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid
  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Colposcopy
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • India
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / mortality
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • Acetic Acid