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We have compared the efficacies of three general primer pairs for the detection of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA in formaldehyde-fixed paraffin-embedded carcinomas. The use of these primer pairs leads to underestimates of the HPV prevalence (GP5/6, 61.1%; CPI/IIG, 57.4%; MY09/11, 46.9%; combined, 72.8%). The efficacy of each primer pair seemed to be inversely correlated to the length of the amplimer produced. By using newly developed type-specific primer pairs (amplimer length, approximately 100 bp), an increase in HPV DNA detection (87.6%) was found.