The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, compared a new 'epigenetics-based' cervical cancer test with Pap smear and HPV tests, and investigated how well it predicted the development of cervical cancer up to five years in advance in a large study of women aged 25-65 in Canada.
As opposed to checking for patterns in the DNA genetic code itself that are indicative of the HPV virus, the new test looks at the naturally-occurring chemical markers that appear on top of the DNA, making up its 'epigenetic profile'.
'An enormous development'
Lead researcher Professor Attila Lorincz from Queen Mary University of London, who also helped develop the world's first test for HPV in 1988, said: "This is an enormous development. We're not only astounded by how well this test detects cervical cancer, but it is the first time that anyone has proven the key role of epigenetics in the development of a major solid cancer using data from patients in the clinic. Epigenetic changes are what this cervical cancer test picks up and is exactly why it works so well.
Contrast - Researchers - Clinicians - Evidence - Fact
"In contrast to what most researchers and clinicians are saying, we are seeing more and more evidence that it is in fact epigenetics, and not DNA mutations, that drives a whole range of early cancers, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal, colon, and prostate."
Screening to prevent cervical cancer is typically done through the Pap smear, which involves the collection, staining and microscopic examination of cells from the cervix. Unfortunately, the Pap smear can detect only around 50 per cent of cervical pre-cancers.
Screening - Method - Presence - DNA - Papillomavirus
A much more accurate cervical screening method involves testing for the presence of DNA from the human papillomavirus (HPV) -- the primary but indirect cause of cervical cancer. There are estimated to be around 10 million women in the UK who are infected by...
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