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Urine test could prevent cervical cancer

Urine testing may be as effective as the smear test at preventing cervical cancer, according to new research by University of Manchester scientists.

The study, led by Dr. Emma Crosbie and published in BMJ Open, found that urine testing was just as good as the cervical smear at picking up high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer.

The research team say a urine test could help increase the numbers of women who are screened for cervical cancer, which affects more than 3,000 women every year in the UK.

The research was supported by the Manchester NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

Urine testing could also have a role in the developing world, where cervical cancer is up to 15 times more common and smear testing largely non-existent.

The NHS cervical screening programme tests for so called ‘high-risk’ types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and the health of the cells of the cervix in women who test high-risk HPV positive.

Around one in 20 women show abnormal changes which might go on to become cancer and are referred for colposcopy, where the cervix is examined under magnification, allowing abnormal areas to be seen, sampled and treated, before they ever cause cancer.

According to the team, cervical smear samples, self-collected vaginal samples and urine samples are all effective at picking up high risk HPV infection.

Cervical cancer is most common in women aged 30 to 35 years. But the precancerous stage is detectable in the five to 10 years before this, when up to a third of women fail to attend for their smear test.

“We’re really very excited by this study, which we think has the potential to significantly increase participation rates for cervical cancer screening in a key demographic group,” said Dr. Emma Crosbie.

“Many younger women avoid the NHS cervical cancer screening programme because they find it embarrassing or uncomfortable, particularly if they have gynaecological conditions like endometriosis.”

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Source: Medical Xpress