Nearly 73,000 deaths across the world from cervical cancer could be prevented by a simple vinegar test, according to a study.

The research, conducted by Dr Surendra Sastri of Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, proves that the quick and cheap vinegar test slashed cervical cancer deaths by one-third among 150,000 women. In India, cervical cancer is the main cancer killer among women.

The study results, which were announced at a cancer conference in Chicago on Sunday, presented a feasible solution for developing countries which could not afford Pap tests. Pap smears had helped reduce 80 percent of cervical cancer deaths in women in wealthy countries.

The simple vinegar test is conducted by swabbing the cervix with diluted vinegar, which makes the abnormal cells to change colour briefly, indicating that further tests need to be done. Even though it is not a perfect test, its feasibility as a preliminary test is reassuring. It could be carried out by common people with just two weeks of training and with no hi-tech lab equipment.

The researchers screened 75,360 women with the vinegar test every two years. Another group of 76,178 was chosen as a comparison group and given cancer education and vouchers for a free pap test. Those women found to have cancer was given free treatment at the hospital.

The researchers found it difficult to convince women to get the test done because of the country's conservative setting, and had to send health workers to the slums to explain the importance of taking the test.

According to experts, the test could prevent 22,000 deaths in India and 72,600 deaths worldwide.