HPV Is the Culprit in Virtually All Cervical Cancers--NIH Panel

May 1, 1996

BETHESDA, Md--Of the 4,900 US deaths each year from cervical cancer, virtually all could have been prevented by routine Pap smears, and nearly all cases could be prevented by practicing safe sex to avoid infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a panel of independent experts appointed by the NIH said in a consensus statement.

BETHESDA, Md--Of the 4,900 US deaths each year from cervical cancer,virtually all could have been prevented by routine Pap smears,and nearly all cases could be prevented by practicing safe sexto avoid infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a panelof independent experts appointed by the NIH said in a consensusstatement.

The statement was developed at the 3-day Consensus DevelopmentConference on Cervical Cancer, sponsored by the National CancerInstitute and the NIH's Office of Medical Applications of Research.

The panel found that about half of the 15,700 US women diagnosedwith cervical cancer each year have never had a Pap test. Thoseleast likely to be screened include older women, the uninsured,ethnic minorities, and the poor, especially in rural areas.

The panel called cervical cancer "the first major solid tumorto have been shown to be virally induced in essentially everycase. HPV DNA is found in virtually all cervical carcinomas andprecursor lesions worldwide."

Detecting the Preinvasive Stage

The report went on to say that "the majority of these cancersgo through a preinvasive stage that can be detected in the earlystage by a Pap smear and treated with nearly uniform success andthe retention of fertility."

Because HPV is sexually transmitted, the panel said that adolescentsshould be encouraged to delay onset of sexual intercourse andto use barrier methods of contraceptives if they are sexuallyactive. The committee also advised the development of effectiveprophylactic and therapeutic vaccines against HPV.