For millions of women in poorer countries, a do-it-yourself smear could help thwart cancer, New Scientist reports.
About 85% of cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries, where it’s rare to screen for pre-cancerous changes: it’s difficult to obtain samples, and there’s a shortage of scientists to interpret them.
One alternative is to test for DNA from the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the disease. Qiagen in Maryland created a kit that lets women collect their own cell samples, which are then sent to a lab.
Fang-Hui Zhao of Peking Union Medical College and colleagues reviewed data from 13,140 women in China who were screened using:
- self-HPV testing,
- traditional smear testing, or
- a visual method that uses acetic acid.
They found that the self-HPV testing was the most effective (about 80%) at detecting early cancer signs.
"Self-HPV testing has potential as a primary screening method for women, regardless of their access to healthcare," Zhao says.
Image: HPV / Laboratory of Tumor Virus Biology