New York Times (10.25.11) - Friday, October 28, 2011
Women infected with human papillomavirus are two to three
times as likely as those not infected to have suffered a heart
attack or stroke, according to a new study. However, the
findings are not definitive and only show an association
between heart disease and HPV, not that HPV caused the
Dr. Kenichi Fujise, a cardiologist at the University of Texas
Medical Branch in Galveston, and colleagues sought to find out
why some people suffer heart attacks but have none of the
usual risk factors. About 20 percent of heart patients lack
obvious risk factors, and researchers believe there may be
underlying factors yet to be discovered.
Fujise's team studied HPV because the virus can degrade tumor
suppressor protein p53, whose inactivation is associated with
accelerated atherosclerosis. Data for the study were from
2,450 females ages 20-59 who participated in a national health
survey during 2003-06. The women self-collected vaginal swab
specimens for HPV testing and reported whether they ever had a
heart attack or stroke.
Of the women, 1,141 had HPV. And of the 60 who reported heart
disease, 39 had HPV. Adjusting for risks such as smoking,
blood pressure, and weight, the team found women with HPV were
2.3 times as likely as the uninfected to have heart disease.
Among women with HPV strains known to cause cancer, the risk
was 2.86 times that of women who did not have HPV.
"I was thinking maybe there would be just a weak link or no
link, but this is a strong link," said Fujise. Most people
with HPV would not be at special risk for heart disease.
Fujise suspects that heart disease, like cancer, would be
likely to develop only among people with lingering HPV
The full study, "Human Papillomavirus and Cardiovascular
Disease Among US Women in the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, 2003 to 2006," was published in the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2011;58:2001-