A new study found that a urine test can effectively detect human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer in women.
HPV is considered as one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and many people do not even know they are infected. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that HPV is extremely common in sexually active women as well as men.
In most of the cases, HPV comes and goes on its own without an infected person even knowing it. However, in some cases it can cause health problems such as genital warts and cancer. HPV can cause cancers of the vagina, vulva, cervix, oropharynx, anus and penis. In certain cases, HPV can result in throat cancer as well. CDC also indicates that HPV is also responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers in the U.S.
HPV can be detected by Pap smears on women only. Healthcare professionals usually advise women to have routine Pap smears for early detection of HPV. Pap smears are believed to save the lives of around 4,500 women each year, while around 33 percent women under the age of 35 refuse to have the test.
Doctors believe that the invasive nature of Pap smears is one of the key reasons that deter women from getting tested.
The latest meta-analysis investigated 14 prior studies that included over 1,400 women. The researchers claim that urine tests, which are non-invasive, are also able to detect HPV.
"Our study shows that testing urine for HPV has good accuracy when compared to testing samples taken from the cervix for HPV," says Dr. Neha Pathak, at women's health research unit at Queen Mary University of London, who is the lead researcher of the study.
The researchers suggest that urine samples taken from women to detect HPV were overall 87 percent accurate. The urine tests also identified 94 percent correct negative tests.
The research can be significant as more women, who do not prefer Pap smears, will be encouraged to get HPV testing. Many countries across the world do not have large infrastructure arrangements for HPV testing everywhere. The latest study can result in the development of self-sampling methods, which will be simple as well as cost effective.
Researchers conclude that even though urine tests have a higher accuracy rate to detect HPV, more work is required to understand how to implement the test clinically.