Background: In January 2017, the Dutch cervical cancer screening programme transitioned from cytomorphological to primary high-risk HPV (hrHPV) DNA screening, including the introduction of self-sampling, for women aged between 30 and 60 years. The Netherlands was the first country to switch to hrHPV screening at the national level. We investigated the health impact of this transition by comparing performance indicators from the new hrHPV-based programme with the previous cytology-based programme.
Methods: We obtained data from the Dutch nationwide network and registry of histo- and cytopathology (PALGA) for 454,573 women eligible for screening in 2017 who participated in the hrHPV-based programme between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2018 (maximum follow-up of almost 21 months) and for 483,146 women eligible for screening in 2015 who participated in the cytology-based programme between 1 January 2015 and 31 March 2016 (maximum follow-up of 40 months). We compared indicators of participation (participation rate), referral (screen positivity; referral rate) and detection (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) detection; number of referrals per detected CIN lesion).
Results: Participation in the hrHPV-based programme was significantly lower than that in the cytology-based programme (61% vs 64%). Screen positivity and direct referral rates were significantly higher in the hrHPV-based programme (positivity rate: 5% vs 9%; referral rate: 1% vs 3%). CIN2+ detection increased from 11 to 14 per 1000 women screened. Overall, approximately 2.2 times more clinical irrelevant findings (i.e.
Conclusions: This is the first time that comprehensive results of nationwide implementation of hrHPV-based screening have been reported using high-quality data with a long follow-up. We have shown that both benefits and potential harms are higher in one screening round of a well-implemented hrHPV-based screening programme than in an established cytology-based programme. Lower participation in the new hrHPV programme may be due to factors such as invitation policy changes and the phased roll-out of the new programme. Our findings add further to evidence from trials and modelling studies on the effectiveness of hrHPV-based screening.