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To investigate, using a Dutch model, whether and under what variables framed for other European countries screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) is preferred over cytology screening for cervical cancer, and to calculate the preferred number of examinations over a woman's lifetime.Cost effectiveness analysis based on a Dutch simulation model. Base case analyses investigated the cost effectiveness of more than 1500 different screening policies using the microsimulation model. Subsequently, the policies were compared for five different scenarios that represent different possible scenarios (risk of cervical cancer, previous screening, quality associated test characteristics, costs of testing, and prevalence of HPV).Various European countries.Unvaccinated women born between 1939 and 1992.Optimal screening strategy in terms of incremental cost effectiveness ratios (costs per quality adjusted life years gained) compared with different cost effectiveness thresholds, for two levels of sensitivity and costs of the HPV test.Primary HPV screening was the preferred primary test over the age of 30 in many considered scenarios. Primary cytology screening was preferred only in scenarios with low costs of cytology and in scenarios with a high prevalence of HPV in combination with high costs of HPV testing.Most European countries should consider switching from primary cytology to HPV screening for cervical cancer. HPV screening must, however, only be implemented in situations where screening is well controlled.