A 3-year interval is too short for re-screening women testing negative for human papillomavirus: a population-based cohort study

BJOG. 2017 Sep;124(10):1585-1593. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14575. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


Objective: To compare the results from an initial negative human papillomavirus (HPV) test with re-screening after 3 years in women attending two HPV-based screening programmes.

Design: Population-based cohort study.

Setting: Two cervical service screening programmes in Italy.

Population: Women aged 25-64 years invited to screening from April 2009 to October 2015.

Methods: Eligible women were invited to undergo an HPV test. Those with a negative HPV test went on to the next screening round 3 years later. Cytology triage was performed for HPV+ (HPV by Hybrid Capture 2) samples, with immediate colposcopy (if abnormal) and HPV re-testing 1 year later (if negative).

Main outcome measures: Participation rate, positivity at HPV and at triage, referral rate to colposcopy, positive predictive value for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2+ (CIN2+) at colposcopy, and detection rate for CIN2+.

Results: We present the results from 48 751 women at the first screening and 22 000 women at re-screening 3 years later. The response rate was slightly higher at the second screening (74.5 versus 72.1% at the first screening; referral rate, RR 1.11; 95% confidence interval, 95% CI, 1.07-1.14). Compared with the first screening, we observed a significant reduction at the second screening in terms of HPV positivity (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.51-0.60), referral rate to colposcopy (RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.41-0.53), CIN2+ detection rate (RR 0.24, 95% CI 0.13-0.39), and positive predictive value (PPV) for CIN2+ at colposcopy (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.29-0.87).

Conclusions: The very low frequency of disease and inadequate PPV at colposcopy indicate that a 3-year interval after a negative HPV test is too short.

Tweetable abstract: Three years after a negative HPV the frequency of cervical disease is so low that re-screening is inefficient.

Keywords: CIN2+; Cervical cancer; HPV DNA test; screening interval.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervix Uteri / virology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colposcopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data