Vinegar could hold the key to cutting deaths from cervical cancer, according to a pioneering Indian study published in the Lancet.
Scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in France, and the Institute of Medical Sciences in Tamil Nadu, India, have developed a cheap test using acetic acid, a key ingredient in vinegar.
The solution is applied to the cervix and suspect tissue turns white and can be seen with the naked eye under a halogen lamp.
The researchers found that women who had been screened were 25 per cent less likely to develop cervical cancer and 35 per cent less likely to die from it.
The researchers concluded: "Our findings indicate that [the test] is a simple, feasible, and effective method to prevent cervical cancer and death among deprived populations in developing and developed countries."
There were 493,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 273,000 deaths from the disease in 2002, according to IARC figures quoted in the Lancet paper.
In developing countries, smears and vaccines are generally prohibitively expensive.