09/29/2011 01:00 am ET Updated Nov 28, 2011

How Vinegar Could Help Spot Early Signs Of Cervical Cancer

Detecting the precancerous lesions that turn into cervical cancer could be as easy as ... pouring on some vinegar?

The New York Times reported how health care providers in Thailand are using the common household item to help screening for cervical cancer -- by applying it a woman's cervix. When applied, the vinegar causes any precancerous lesions to turn white; the lesions can then be frozen off.

"Some doctors resist" the method, Dr. Wachara Eamratsameekool, a gynecologist at Roi Et Hospital, told The New York Times. "They call it 'poor care for poor people.' This is a misunderstanding. It's the most effective use of our resources."

However, the method carries the risk of false positives, since other things -- not just precancerous lesions -- can turn white when vinegar is applied, the Times reported.

The procedure is as promising for low- and middle-income countries as Pap smears were to richer countries, ABC News reported.

From ABC News:

Medical professionals in low-income areas, where cervical cancer remains the number one or two cancer killer in women, hope the procedure will bring cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths down, just like the Pap smear did.

The idea certainly isn't new. A 2007 study published in the Lancet showed that the simple test could reduce cervical cancer cases by a quarter, the Associated Press reported. The technique was used to screen 49,311 women in India from 2000 to 2003.

And in 1999, there was another study in the Lancet that showed that nurses who swiped their patients' cervices with vinegar were able to detect 75 percent of the precancerous lesions, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A vinegar solution (mild acetic acid) can also be used to spot genital warts, WebMD reported.

For more on how vinegar can be used as a screening tool for precancerous lesions for cervical cancer, read the New York Times story.