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JAMA. 2018 Jul 3;320(1):43-52. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.7464.

Effect of Screening With Primary Cervical HPV Testing vs Cytology Testing on High-grade Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia at 48 Months: The HPV FOCAL Randomized Clinical Trial.

Author information

Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Lower Mainland Laboratories, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Cervical Cancer Screening Program, British Columbia Cancer, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Cancer Control Research, BC Cancer, British Columbia, Canada.
Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Departments of Oncology and Epidemiology & Biostatistics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



There is limited information about the relative effectiveness of cervical cancer screening with primary human papillomavirus (HPV) testing alone compared with cytology in North American populations.


To evaluate histologically confirmed cumulative incident cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade 3 or worse (CIN3+) detected up to and including 48 months by primary HPV testing alone (intervention) or liquid-based cytology (control).

Design, Setting, and Participants:

Randomized clinical trial conducted in an organized Cervical Cancer Screening Program in Canada. Participants were recruited through 224 collaborating clinicians from January 2008 to May 2012, with follow-up through December 2016. Women aged 25 to 65 years with no history of CIN2+ in the past 5 years, no history of invasive cervical cancer, or no history of hysterectomy; who have not received a Papanicolaou test within the past 12 months; and who were not receiving immunosuppressive therapy were eligible.


A total of 19 009 women were randomized to the intervention (n = 9552) and control (n = 9457) groups. Women in the intervention group received HPV testing; those whose results were negative returned at 48 months. Women in the control group received liquid-based cytology (LBC) testing; those whose results were negative returned at 24 months for LBC. Women in the control group who were negative at 24 months returned at 48 months. At 48-month exit, both groups received HPV and LBC co-testing.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

The primary outcome was the cumulative incidence of CIN3+ 48 months following randomization. The cumulative incidence of CIN2+ was a secondary outcome.


Among 19 009 women who were randomized (mean age, 45 years [10th-90th percentile, 30-59]), 16 374 (8296 [86.9%] in the intervention group and 8078 [85.4%] in the control group) completed the study. At 48 months, significantly fewer CIN3+ and CIN2+ were detected in the intervention vs control group. The CIN3+ incidence rate was 2.3/1000 (95% CI, 1.5-3.5) in the intervention group and 5.5/1000 (95% CI, 4.2-7.2) in the control group. The CIN3+ risk ratio was 0.42 (95% CI, 0.25-0.69). The CIN2+ incidence rate at 48 months was 5.0/1000 (95% CI, 3.8-6.7) in the intervention group and 10.6/1000 (95% CI, 8.7-12.9) in the control group. The CIN2+ risk ratio was 0.47 (95% CI, 0.34-0.67). Baseline HPV-negative women had a significantly lower cumulative incidence of CIN3+ at 48 months than cytology-negative women (CIN3+ incidence rate, 1.4/1000 [95% CI, 0.8-2.4]; CIN3+ risk ratio, 0.25 [95% CI, 0.13-0.48]).

Conclusions and Relevance:

Among women undergoing cervical cancer screening, the use of primary HPV testing compared with cytology testing resulted in a significantly lower likelihood of CIN3+ at 48 months. Further research is needed to understand long-term clinical outcomes as well as cost-effectiveness.

Trial Registration: Identifier: ISRCTN79347302.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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