Young women ages 14-19 are most infectedA new report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that 1 in 4 women screened for cervical cancer is infected with a high risk strain of HPV. What is even more shocking is that many of these women have normal Pap smear results!
The results of the study show that the risk of having a high risk HPV strain lessens as women age. In the study over 9000 women ages 14-65 were screened using a Pap smear and HPV DNA testing with Hybrid Capture 2 assay. Of the women screened, 23% were infected with high risk HPV. 35% of infected women were between 14-19 years of age. On the lower end of the age spectrum, women aged 50 through 65 made up 6% of infected women.
What Does This Mean for You?First, this study proves just how much we need an HPV vaccine and why we need to vaccinate girls at a young age. Considering there are girls who are infected with high strains at such young ages, we need to protect these girls from cervical cancer.
The study also shows how important it is to have regular Pap smear and when appropriate, HPV DNA testing. Right now, it is recommended that women have HPV testing along with their Pap smear starting at age 30. Women who are at high risk of developing cervical cancer may be recommended to have testing sooner.
Keep in mind that cervical cancer is a slow progressing disease. This means that it can take years before cervical changes caused by HPV to progress into cervical cancer. This is why having regular cervical exams (Pap smear, HPV testing) is crucial for early detection.