Data from a national study suggest that about one in four U.S. girls and women between 14 and 59 may have the sexually transmitted infection human papillomarivus (HPV), according to a study in the Feb. 28 issue of JAMA.
Human papillomavirus is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, but no data exists on the prevalence of HPV among women across a broad age range and representative of the U.S. population. High-risk HPV types can cause cervical, anal, and other genital cancers. High-risk HPV types are detected in 99 percent of cervical cancers, and worldwide approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers are due to HPV types 16 and 18. A highly effective vaccine against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 was licensed in June 2006 and recommended for routine use in girls 11 to 12 in the United States.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimated the prevaccine prevalence of HPV in the U.S. by performing HPV DNA testing on 2,026 self-collected vaginal swabs among girls and women 14 to 59 participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2004. Of the 1,921 adequate specimens, 26.8 percent were positive for any HPV DNA. Using January 2004 population estimates and extrapolating this prevalence rate to the population, the authors estimate that approximately 24.9 million females in this age range have prevalent HPV infection. Prevalence of any HPV infection was highest among those 20 to 24 (44.8%), and overall HPV prevalence was 33.8 percent among those 14 to 24. This prevalence corresponds with 7.5 million girls and women with HPV infection, which is higher than the previous estimate of 4.6 million HPV infections among them in this same age group in the United States.
There was a significant trend for increasing HPV prevalence with each year of age from 14 to 24, followed by a gradual decline in HPV prevalence through 59 years. Independent risk factors for HPV detection were age, marital status, and increasing numbers of lifetime and recent sex partners. Overall, HPV types 6, 11, 16, or 18 were detected in 3.4 percent of the study participants, corresponding with 3.1 million girls and women with prevalent infection with HPV types included in the quadrivalent HPV vaccine.