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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003 Sep;12(9):815-23.

A comparison of single and combined visual, cytologic, and virologic tests as screening strategies in a region at high risk of cervical cancer.

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  • 1Departamento de Salud Publica, Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Increased understanding of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection as the central cause of cervical cancer has permitted the development of improved screening techniques. To evaluate their usefulness, we evaluated the performance of multiple screening methods concurrently in a large population-based cohort of >8500 nonvirginal women without hysterectomies, whom we followed prospectively in a high-risk region of Latin America. Using Youden's index as a measure of the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity, we estimated the performances of a visual screening method (cervicography), conventional cytology, liquid-based cytology (ThinPrep), and DNA testing for 13 oncogenic HPV types. The reference standard of disease was neoplasia > or = cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN 3), defined as histologically confirmed CIN 3 detected within 2 years of enrollment (n=90) or invasive cancer detected within 7 years (n=20). We analyzed each technique alone and in paired combinations (n=112 possible strategies), and evaluated the significance of differences between strategies using a paired Z test that equally weighted sensitivity and specificity. As a single test, either liquid-based cytology or HPV DNA testing was significantly more accurate than conventional cytology or cervicography. Paired tests incorporating either liquid-based cytology or HPV DNA testing were not substantially more accurate than either of those two test strategies alone. However, a possibly useful synergy was observed between the conventional smear and cervicography. Consideration of age or behavioral risk profiles did not alter any of these conclusions. Overall, we conclude that highly accurate screening for cervical cancer and CIN 3 is now technically feasible. The remaining vital issue is to extend improved cervical cancer prevention programs to resource-poor regions.

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