A type-specific, sensitive, polymerase chain reaction-based assay for human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6b, 11, 16, 18, and 33 was applied to 47 cervical carcinomas, 60 cases of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and 24 samples of histologically normal cervix. As expected, the combined incidence of the common high-risk genital HPVs (types 16 and 18) was high in carcinomas (79%) and CIN 2/3 (60%), low in CIN 1 (25%), and nonexistent in the normal controls. Analysis of the data by viral type and pathology revealed statistically significant differences that consistently pointed to an association of HPV 18 with more advanced disease than HPV 16. This was exemplified by calculation of the relative HPV frequency in squamous cancers and CIN 2/3 lesions, which gave cancer to CIN prevalence ratios of 1.2 for HPV 16 and 2.3 for HPV 18, a twofold difference suggesting the possibility that there is a greater risk of progression or a more rapid transition to malignancy associated with HPV 18. Furthermore, HPV 16 was associated with 2.5-fold more cancers showing squamous differentiation (58%) than HPV 18 (23%), but both types showed an identical prevalence of 41% in the clinically more sinister adenocarcinomas, indicating that there may be an association between HPV type and cancer cell differentiation.