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28 February 2007
HPV More Widespread Than Previously Thought

Worrying new data suggests that about one-in-four U.S. females between the ages of 14 and 59 years may have the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can cause cervical, anal, and other genital cancers. While HPV is thought to be one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, there has been a paucity of data on its prevalence until now.

Reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the new figures were based on more than 2,000 self-collected vaginal swabs from females aged between 14 and 59.

Overall, 27 percent of the supplied swabs were positive for HPV. The prevalence was highest (45 percent) among females aged between 20 and 24 years, while among younger women (aged 14 to 24) the prevalence was 34 percent. There was a significant trend for increasing HPV prevalence with each year of age from 14 to 24 years, followed by a gradual decline in HPV prevalence through 59 years. "Our data indicate that the burden of prevalent HPV infection among women was higher than previous estimates," noted the CDC researchers.

Many different HPV strains exist but approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers are due to HPV types 16 and 18. A vaccine which works against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 was licensed in 2006 and recommended for routine use in females aged between 11 and 12. The researchers hope the new data will assist in gauging the effectiveness of the vaccine for reducing infection.

Related articles:
Cervical Cancer Vaccine Coming, But Don't Give Up On Pap Smears
STDs - Chances Are You've Probably Got One
Low Awareness Makes HPV Vaccine Important
Semen: A Potentially Nasty Brew
Young Women Underestimate STD Risk

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

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