American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting

American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting

April 02, 2012
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HPV infection lasted longer in young black women

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A college-age black woman is almost twice as likely to have an abnormal Pap test and more than twice as likely to still have HPV in her system 2 years after initial infection compared with her white counterpart, according to study results.

Kim E. Creek, PhD, vice chairman of and professor in the department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences in the South Carolina College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina in Charleston, said black women were 1.5 times more likely to test positive for high-risk HPV infection and 1.7 times more likely to have an abnormal Pap test, adding that 56% of black women in the study were still infected after 2 years vs. 24% of white women.

The incidence rate of new high-risk HPV infection relative to population was similar between the two groups of women.

“Most women infected with high-risk HPV clear the infection within 9 to 18 months,” Creek said in a press release. “However, high-risk HPV can persist in some women who are much more likely to have abnormal Pap tests and to develop cervical cancer. We propose that an increase in high-risk HPV persistence in African-American women may provide a biological basis for the higher incidence of cervical cancer found in African-American women.”

Researchers recruited 326 white and 116 black students at the University of South Carolina into the Carolina Women’s Care Study. The study began in 2004 and participants’ Pap tests were evaluated for high-risk HPV status every 6 months. The two groups had similar demographic characteristics, including those often associated with increased risk for cervical lesions such as age at sexual debut and average number of sexual partners.

“African-American women are 40% more likely to get cervical cancer and are two times more likely to die from the disease than European-American women. Although the differences in incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer between these two groups have been attributed solely to access to care, no study has systematically attempted to identify other factors that may contribute to this disparity,” Creek said. “We were not sure what to expect, but we suspected that there may be biological factors involved in the immune response to HPV that contribute to the disparity. Our findings support this hypothesis.”

For more information:

  • Messersmith AR. Abstract #550. Presented at: 2012 AACR Annual Meeting; March 31-April 4; Chicago.