This simple test could end the need to have a smear

A simple urine test could offer women a much less invasive alternative to the cervical smear test.

New research published today reveals the test for the human papilloma virus (HPV) is accurate and efficient. Doctors behind the study said it could help reverse a fall in the number of young women being screened for cancer.

Currently, all women in England aged between 24 and 64 are invited for a smear test to detect for abnormal cells. Those aged 25 to 49 are screened every three years.

Urine tests that could screen for possible cancer, without the discomfort and embarrassment of a smear, have been considered before, but their accuracy has been in doubt.

However, in an analysis of 14 studies involving 1,433 sexually active women, researchers from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry observed encouraging results.

Although lacking the proven accuracy of cervical screening, urine tests did detect 87 per cent of positive HPV cases, and 94 per cent of negative cases. Urine tests specifically targeted to detect two strains of the virus – HPV 16 and HPV 18 – which have been found to cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers, were also successful.

However, researchers said more comprehensive trials would have to be carried out before the test could be considered as part a national screening programme.

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