New Research on Human Papillomavirus

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 40 different types of HPV which infect the genital areas, the mouth and the throat. Most people who become infected show no symptoms and never even know they have it and their immune system clears up the virus within about two years. HPV causes genital warts (which can sometimes appear in the throat) and is a cause of cervical cancer as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, tongue, tonsils and throat.

     

    HPV and Skin Cancer

     

    Recent studies have suggested there may be a link between HPV and some times of skin cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma. I recently wrote a post HPV Viruses and Skin Cancer explaining the possible link. The lead researcher in the study, Dr. Maraget R. Karagas, found that those with several different types of HPV had an increased risk for developing skin cancer. She stated that her findings did not indicate that specific types of HPV put someone at a higher risk but instead it was the number of different HPVs that someone was exposed to that increased their risk of developing skin cancer. The study also showed a possibility that those whose immune systems were not working properly, including those on long-term steroid medication. This may be because, without the immune system to fight the HPV, the viruses can turn into cancer cells.

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    Oral Cancers and HPV

     

    A study reported in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows an association between HPV and oropharyngeal cancers  (cancers of tonsils, throat, tongue). The increase in these types of cancer may be caused by an increase in oral sex, which, if a person has HPV, can spread the disease. According to researchers, 70 percent of these types of cancers are caused by HPV, the remaining cases are caused by tobacco and alcohol.

     

    HPV and Cardiovascular Disease in Women

     

    Another study, appearing in the Nov. 1, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed a possible link between HPV and cardiovascular disease in women. According to the study, HPV may be one factor that increases women's risks for developing heart disease or stroke. The lead researcher indicated that a specific cause and effect was not found but a strong enough association was discovered that this should be explored further. If, indeed, there is an association, the HPV vaccine may help to prevent heart attacks and strokes in some women.

     

    HPV Vaccines

     

    The vaccine, Gardasil, was first approved in 2006 and a second vaccine, Cervarix, was approved in 2009. It is recommended that girls receive the vaccine in pre-teen years, before becoming sexually active. HealthCentral expert, Amy Hendel, discussed how many parents feel giving this vaccine to their daughter is condoning sexual activity at a young age and resist having it administered. But this vaccine can help prevent cervical and other cancers throughout a person's life.

     

    While vaccines for HPV are also approved for boys, it has not been heavily promoted and most boys do not receive this vaccine. A federal government advisory committee, however, recently recommended that boys between the ages of 11 and 21 also receive the vaccine (vaccines can be started as early as 9 years old.) The committee indicated that vaccinating boys will help stop the spread of HPV from boys to girls and will help to protect them from cancers of the penis and rectum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has added the HPV vaccine to the list of recommended vaccines for boys.

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    With the expanding associations between HPV and illnesses besides cervical cancer, such as skin cancer, oral cancers and cardiovascular disease, it would certainly make sense to have all of our children protected.

     

    References:

     

    "HPV Linked to Cardiovascular Disease in Women," 2011, Oct 24, Staff Writer, ScienceDailycom

     

    "HPV Viruses and Skin Cancer," 2011, Oct 16, Eileen Bailey, SkinCancerConnection.com

     

    "Human Papillomavirus (HPV)," Last Updated 2011, Sept 21, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

     

    "Increase in Oral Cancers Linked to HPV," 2011, Oct 3, Saundra Young, CNN Medical News

     

Published On: October 25, 2011