Women who have an HPV test to detect the early signs of cervical cancer may be less likely to need cancer treatment in the future than those who have a traditional pap smear, it has emerged.
A new study by researchers at McGill University has found that the HPV test is far more reliable than the pap test, accurately detecting 94.6 per cent of pre-cancerous lesions while the pap test detected just 55.4 per cent.
Dr Eduardo Franco, James McGill professor in the university's departments of oncology, epidemiology and biostatistics, said: "We already knew before conducting this study that the sensitivity of pap left a lot to be desired.
"However, 55.4 per cent accuracy is only slightly above chance."
Around 4.4 million cervical smear tests are carried out each year in England and around 24,000 women are diagnosed with severely abnormal tests.
The disease is the second most common form of cancer in women under the age of 35.