HPV screening 'reduces cancer risk'

New research indicates that one round of screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) can reduce the risk of death from cervical cancer by more than 50 per cent.

A study published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that testing for HPV can allow the condition to be caught at an early stage, increasing the likelihood of successful treatment, reports Time.com.

It found that testing women aged 30 and older in rural India for HPV is more effective than a pap smear for catching cervical cancer in its earliest stages.

Study author Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, a radiation oncologist at the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, said the study showed that HPV screening was "more sensitive to picking up precancerous lesions than the other tests".

He added that women – especially those in poor rural areas – needed to understand the risks posed by cervical cancer and take action to protect themselves against it.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland extended its HPV vaccination programme to incorporate more young women at risk from the virus.