BACKGROUND: Some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) play a major role in the pathogenesis of cervical cancer. Several dozens of studies on the association of HPV with cervical neoplasm have been done since the first detection of HPV 16 and 18 directly from cervical cancer patients in 1983. Approximately 90 types of HPV have been identified so far and the number of oncogenic HPV types is still growing. In this study, we examined the occurrence of oncogenic HPV infections in patients with cervical lesions. Method : Two hundred twenty cervical swab specimens were collected during a 3 year period (1996-1999). Processed specimens were tested for HPV type 16 and 18 by polymerase chain reaction. RESULTS: HPV type 16 was detected in the cervical swab specimens as follows: 19 (51.4%) of 37 cervical cancer patients, 19 (30.2%) of 63 high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, 5 (9.6%) of 52 low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion, none in 6 atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance and 3 (4.8%) of 62 normal cervices. Conclusion : The positive rate for HPV type 16 increased according to the degree of cervical malignancy.