Current cervical cancer cytology screening looks for cell changes in the cervix caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). An alternative approach is to directly test the cells collected during screening for the presence of HPV. This method allows for greater sensitivity in detecting precancerous lesions and therefore better protection against cancer development, says Professor Jack Cuzick, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, and head of the Centre for Cancer Prevention, at Queen Mary University of London. Another benefit is the low rate of false negatives, which means screening intervals could be safely extended to at least five years for all age groups. False positives due to the test detecting transient HPV infections are a slight disadvantage. However, this can be addressed with genotyping techniques that allow to identify, among HPV-positive women, those infected with HPV 16 (or other high-risk HPV type) and therefore at high risk of developing cancer.