Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have found a tentative link between heart disease and HPV in women. They looked at the data from over 2500 women ages 20-59 who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Exam from 2003-2006. They found that approximately 45% of the participants had some strain of HPV and 23% of them had a cancer causing strain.
They looked at the history of heart disease and heart disease risk factors along with age, race and lifestyle habits. They then compared this information among three groups: women with cancer causing HPV strains, those with other HPV strains and women without HPV. They found strong associations between cancer causing HPV strains and heart disease.
To sum up the findings, they found that after controlling for other risk factors such as weight, smoking habits etc women with cancer causing HPV were 2.86 times more likely to develop some kind of heart disease than women who did not have any HPV strains. Since 20% of heart disease can’t be linked to standard risk factors, this opens the door to develop new understandings of heart disease prevention and treatment.
The study is only a tentative link, more research will need to be done to prove a not only that a link exists, but that the link is one of cause and effect. According to a CBS News report: “In the U.S., one in four women die from heart disease. The # 1 killer in both sexes, heart disease takes more than 631,000 lives each year. Every year about 785,000 Americans suffer their first heart attack.” With the impact of heart disease in this country this news could have a huge impact on treating that 20% of heart disease with unknown causes. Another weakness is that the data only reflects an impact on women’s health so research will also need to be done to see if a link exists for men.
HPV vaccines are already recommended for girls and women ages 9 to 26 and recently a government advisory committee has added a recommendation for boys and men ages 9-21. Though some conservatives feel this is inappropriately encouraging premarital sex, it seems ridiculous to deprive people of a vaccine that could not only help prevent cancer but possibly heart disease as well.
Of course, it is important to always practice safer sex, so if you are unsure of your partners STI status remember to use a condom.