In the Journals

HPV persists significantly longer in black women

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July 18, 2014

The time it took for black women to clear a high-risk HPV infection was nearly double that of white women, according to data published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

This finding emphasizes the importance of women adhering to current cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination guidelines, according to Kim E. Creek, PhD, professor and vice-chair in the department of drug discovery and biomedical sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina.

Kim Creek PhD 

Kim E. Creek

“African-American women have higher incidence and mortality rates from cervical cancer than European American women,” Creek told Infectious Disease News. “This has often been attributed to differences in access to health care. HPV persistence is a major risk factor for cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.”

The researchers conducted a prospective longitudinal study by recruiting women at a college student health center. The study included 113 black women and 326 white women who visited the clinic twice a year for HPV testing and Pap smears. Both groups were similar in age, number of study visits, age at sexual debut and number of sexual partners.

Within the cohort, there were 2,121 study visits and 906 (42.7%) were positive for HPV. White women were HPV positive on 40% of the visits, but black women were positive on 51% of the visits. The difference was observed for both high-risk and low-risk HPV types. There was no difference between the groups in frequency of incident HPV infection.

The researchers evaluated the time it took to clear HPV infections in 178 white women and 63 who developed HPV but were negative at enrollment. The length of time required for 50% of the infections to clear was 601 days for black women, nearly double the 316 days required for white women. After analyzing the Pap smear results, the researchers also found that black women were more likely to have abnormal results than white women.

“While these findings will not affect clinical practice at this time, these results raise the possibility of the identification of biomarkers that could distinguish women who will clear HPV infections from those who will not,” Creek said. “If such biomarkers were identified, they could be used to triage women at the highest risk for cervical cancer.” — by Emily Shafer

Kim E. Creek, PhD, can be reached at creekk@sccp.sc.edu.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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