Screening for Cervical Cancer With High-Risk Human Papillomavirus Testing: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2018 Aug 21;320(7):687-705. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.10400.


Importance: Cervical cancer can be prevented with detection and treatment of precancerous cell changes caused primarily by high-risk types of human papillomavirus (hrHPV), the causative agents in more than 90% of cervical cancers.

Objective: To systematically review benefits and harms of cervical cancer screening for hrHPV to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data sources: MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Collaboration Registry of Controlled Trials from January 2011 through February 15, 2017; surveillance through May 25, 2018.

Study selection: Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and cohort studies comparing primary hrHPV screening alone or hrHPV cotesting (both hrHPV testing and cytology) with cytology (Papanicolaou [Pap] test) screening alone.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two investigators independently reviewed abstracts and full-text articles and quality rated included studies; data were qualitatively synthesized.

Main outcomes and measures: Invasive cervical cancer; cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN); false-positive, colposcopy, and biopsy rates; psychological harms.

Results: Eight RCTs (n = 410 556), 5 cohort studies (n = 402 615), and 1 individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis (n = 176 464) were included. Trials were heterogeneous for screening interval, number of rounds, and protocol. For primary hrHPV screening, evidence was consistent across 4 trials demonstrating increased detection of CIN 3 or worse (CIN 3+) in round 1 (relative risk [RR] range, 1.61 [95% CI, 1.09-2.37] to 7.46 [95% CI, 1.02-54.66]). Among 4 hrHPV cotesting trials, first-round CIN 3+ detection was not significantly different between screening groups; RRs for cumulative CIN 3+ detection over 2 screening rounds ranged from 0.91 to 1.13. In first-round screening, false-positive rates for primary hrHPV screening ranged from 6.6% to 7.4%, compared with 2.6% to 6.5% for cytology. For cotesting, false-positives ranged from 5.8% to 19.9% in the first round of screening, compared with 2.6% to 10.9% for cytology. First-round colposcopy rates were also higher, ranging 1.2% to 7.9% for primary hrHPV testing, compared with 1.1% to 3.1% for cytology alone; colposcopy rates for cotesting ranged from 6.8% to 10.9%, compared with 3.3% to 5.2% for cytology alone. The IPD meta-analysis of data from 4 cotesting trials and 1 primary hrHPV screening trial found lower risk of invasive cervical cancer with any hrHPV screening compared with cytology alone (pooled RR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.40-0.89]).

Conclusions and relevance: Primary hrHPV screening detected higher rates of CIN 3+ at first-round screening compared with cytology. Cotesting trials did not show initial increased CIN 3+ detection. Both hrHPV screening strategies had higher false-positive and colposcopy rates than cytology, which could lead to more treatments with potential harms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervix Uteri / pathology
  • Cervix Uteri / virology
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaginal Smears*