Associated Press (04.01.12) - Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Black women have more persistent infections with human
papillomavirus (HPV), which may explain their greater
likelihood of dying from cervical cancer, says a new study.
Certain strains of HPV cause cervical cancer; however, brief
infections are routine in young women and usually clear on
their own within one year. Longer infections pose the cancer
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health
Disparities study, conducted at the University of South
Carolina-Columbia, followed 326 white and 113 black students.
All received Pap and HPV tests every six months. Although
similar new HPV infection rates were detected, and similar
numbers of sex partners were reported, doctors found stark
differences in infection lengths.
During checkups, blacks were 1.5 times more prone to test
positive for an HPV strain linked to cancer, according to lead
researcher Kim Creek. Ten percent of blacks had abnormal Pap
tests, compared to 6 percent of whites. Two years subsequent
to initial infection detection, 56 percent of blacks remained
infected, compared to 24 percent of whites.
"The African-American women weren't clearing the virus as
fast," said Creek. "They were actually holding onto it about
six months longer," for 18 months versus 12 months, he
The findings, presented Sunday in Chicago at a conference of
the American Association for Cancer Research, are
"provocative," but need validation through a study focused on
more than one region, said Worta McCaskill-Stevens, a
prevention specialist at the National Cancer Institute.
Pap screenings received according to US guidelines are
credited with the nation's dramatic decline in cervical
cancer. However, 12,000 new cases and 4,200 deaths from
cervical cancer occur annually, mostly in unscreened or
infrequently screened women. The vaccines Gardasil and
Cervarix target the HPV strains that cause most cases of the