Double Trouble From HPV

Genomic structure of Human papillomavirus HPV

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Two new studies have come out that highlight significant news around HPV – Human Papillomavirus. HPV is known to increase the risk of cervical cancer in women significantly. Now, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that an HPV vaccine that helps prevent HPV in women, can help prevent most anal cancers in gay men. The recommendation is now that boys aged 11-12 now also get the vaccine, which is currently recommended for girls. HPV is thought to infect as many as half of all sexually active adults, so the numbers of people affected and thus that can be protected from increased cancer risk is significant.

The second piece of news is that women infected with HPV are also at a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks then women who aren’t infected. The study also suggested that the increased risk is only true for the strains of HPV that are also associated with an increased risk of cancer. Right now nobody has any idea how HPV is causing an increased risk of stroke or heart attack – just that there is a statistically significant link.

Bottom line – teens should get vaccinated for HPV. The increased risk of cancer and now heart disease and stroke for women is too much of a risk to take. And given the news about cancer, the second study needs to be repeated for men with HPV to see if the same elevated risk applies for men as well.

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