A new study suggests that Pap smears— annual cervical tests that identify cell abnormalities—may not be the best method to test for cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV).  A head-to-head comparison conducted at McGill University in Canada, found that a DNA-based HPV test detected pre-cancerous cells 40 percent better than a Pap smear.

Marie-Helene Mayrand, MD, a researcher who worked on the report, admits that the HPV test does produce more false positive results which can lead to unnecessary invasive procedures, but strongly believes that the test is more effective than relying on Pap smears alone.