Human Papillomavirus More Prevalent in Poor Women

Low-income and unmarried status associated with high-risk HPV

WEDNESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Compared with women with more resources, low-income American women are at higher risk for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, researchers report in the July issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Jessica Kahn, M.D., of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues evaluated vaginal swabs from 1,921 women, aged 14 to 59, who took part in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers found that 15.6 percent of the women had high-risk HPV infection, translating into more than 12 million cases in U.S. women. Some 23 percent of low-income women tested positive for high-risk HPV, versus 12 percent of those whose income was at least three times above the poverty line.

Among study participants living below the poverty line, HPV prevalence was associated with unmarried status and Mexican-American ethnicity. However, among participants with incomes above the poverty line, black race, age between 22 and 25 years and unmarried status were associated with increased risk of HPV infection, the report indicates.

"High-risk HPV infection is common in U.S. women, particularly in poor women," the authors conclude. "Cervical cancer prevention efforts in the vaccination era must ensure that all low-income women have access to preventive services including education, Pap test screening, and HPV vaccines. Otherwise, existing disparities in cervical cancer could worsen."

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