The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA in women who had received a renal transplant and to compare this with two control groups. Women who had a functioning renal transplant for greater than 6 months (n = 69) were compared with women on maintenance dialysis (n = 89) and women with impaired renal function (creatinine 0.15-0.39 mmol/l) (n = 22). Women were excluded if they had had a hysterectomy, were older than 65 years, or were not yet sexually active. A questionnaire and cervical scrape were obtained from each participant. The cervical scrape was analysed for HPV DNA using PCR and the L1 consensus primers. The participation rate of transplant patients, dialysis patients and those with impaired renal function ('normal' group) was 69, 68, and 78% respectively. The characteristics of the three groups of women at enrollment were similar. No cytological abnormalities were present in the 'normal' population but 11 of 89 patients on maintenance dialysis and nine of 69 transplant patients had cytological abnormalities of atypia or greater (P = 0.08 and P = 0.07, for 'normal' compared to dialysis and transplant groups respectively). One (4.5%) of the 'normal' women had evidence of HPV DNA, while 18 (20%) of patients on maintenance dialysis and 15 (22%) of transplant patients were positive (P = 0.07 and P = 0.05, for 'normal' compared to dialysis and transplant groups respectively). This study suggests that not only transplant recipients but also dialysis patients may have a higher prevalence of risk factors (cytological abnormalities and HPV DNA) for the development of cervical cancer.