Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

January 31, 2007


Letter to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036-3959


To the Editor:

The American Society of Cytopathology is a medical society devoted to the detection of disease through evaluation of cells, including Pap Tests.  Advocacy for women is one of our missions. We fully support the use of HPV testing and implementation of the vaccine.

We are concerned that Andrew Pollack’s article “Pap Test, a Mainstay Against Cervical Cancer, May Be Fading ” (January 16, 2007) will create misconceptions regarding the HPV vaccine, HPV testing and the  Pap Test in preventing cancer of the cervix. 

There are many questions about the HPV vaccine.  The vaccine protects women from the majority, but not all cancer-causing HPV types; it prevents a woman from acquiring an HPV infection, but does not treat an established one; and no evidence exists that it reduces cervical cancer.  Moreover, altering the interval of cervical cancer screening is a public health concern.  Pap testing may be the only primary health care contact for women; breast cancer evaluation, hypertension, diabetes and other diseases are detected at Pap test visits. 

At the present time, professional organizations (including the American Society of Clinical Oncology) strongly recommend that existing guidelines for Pap Tests be followed.  The Pap Test remains the only successful cervical cancer screening tool, and until the above questions are resolved, it is premature to imply that its role is fading.


Mary K. Sidawy, M.D., President
American Society of Cytopathology

c: ASC Executive Board
    ASC Membership