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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

UNITED STATES: Blacks Have Trouble Clearing Cervical Cancer Virus


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 risk.

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 continued.

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 cancer.


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Information in this article was accurate in April 3, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.