Pap tests have long been the gold standard to screen women for cervical cancer, but a new study published in JAMA says that in women older than 30 years, HPV testing is less invasive and more accurate.  

Researchers compared HPV and Pap testing in 19,000 Canadian women during a four-year period. Women received either a Pap or HPV test; those who had a Pap test and tested negative were given a second Pap test two years later. Both groups were tested with both methods (co-testing) at four years. 

Although the final co-testing found some abnormal cells in women who tested negatively in both groups, women who originally received a Pap test were more than twice as likely to have abnormal cells. Only 22 women who received an HPV test had grade 3 or higher abnormal cells, compared to 52 in the Pap test group. 

The latest U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening recommendations for women aged 30–65, released in August 2018, allow for use of either Pap or HPV testing, not combination testing.