Background:

The growing use of primary human papillomavirus (HPV) cervical cancer screening requires determining appropriate screening intervals to avoid overtreatment of transient disease. This study examined the long-term risk of cervical precancer after HPV screening to inform screening interval recommendations.

Methods:

This longitudinal cohort study (British Columbia, Canada, 2008 to 2022) recruited women and individuals with a cervix who received 1 to 2 negative HPV screens (HPV1 cohort, N = 5,546; HPV2 cohort, N = 6,624) during a randomized trial and women and individuals with a cervix with 1 to 2 normal cytology results (BCS1 cohort, N = 782,297; BCS2 cohort, N = 673,778) extracted from the provincial screening registry. All participants were followed through the registry for 14 years. Long-term risk of cervical precancer or worse [cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse (CIN2+)] was compared between HPV and cytology cohorts.

Results:

Cumulative risks of CIN2+ were 3.2/1,000 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.6–4.7] in HPV1 and 2.7/1,000 (95% CI, 1.2–4.2) in HPV2 after 8 years. This was comparable with the risk in the cytology cohorts after 3 years [BCS1: 3.3/1,000 (95% CI, 3.1–3.4); BCS2: 2.5/1,000 (95% CI, 2.4–2.6)]. The cumulative risk of CIN2+ after 10 years was low in the HPV cohorts [HPV1: 4.7/1,000 (95% CI, 2.6–6.7); HPV2: 3.9 (95% CI, 1.1–6.6)].

Conclusions:

Risk of CIN2+ 8 years after a negative screen in the HPV cohorts was comparable with risk after 3 years in the cytology cohorts (the benchmark for acceptable risk).

Impact:

These findings suggest that primary HPV screening intervals could be extended beyond the current 5-year recommendation, potentially reducing barriers to screening.

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