Thursday, March 1, 2007
From the Washington Post:
More than one-third of American women are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), which in rare cases can lead to cervical cancer, by the time they are 24 years old, according to a study being published today.
The new estimates suggest that there are 7.5 million girls and women 14 to 24 years old infected with the microbe -- about two-thirds more than an earlier but less comprehensive study had found.
Overall, about one-quarter of women under age 60 are infected at any given time, making HPV by far the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country.
News of the higher-than-expected prevalence of HPV infection was balanced by the discovery that only 2.2 percent of women were carrying one of the two virus strains most likely to lead to cervical cancer -- about half the rate found in previous surveys.
The lead researcher cautioned the findings do not mean that HPV infection rates are rising, only that they are higher than previously thought.
. . . The estimate comes from the federal government's ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which provides the clearest snapshot of the U.S. population's health through dozens of measurements, laboratory tests and survey questions.
The new findings, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, are likely to further encourage use of a vaccine against HPV approved in June by the Food and Drug Administration for females 9 to 26. Its maker, Merck, until recently was lobbying state legislatures to mandate vaccination of middle-school girls -- a step that more than 18 states are moving toward.