According to the results of a McGill University study, young adults about to embark on a new sexual relationship have a more than 50/50 chance of contracting the human Papillomavirus (HPV). A study of young couples proved that 56% of all sexually active young adults in relationships lasting at least 6 months have HPV, with almost half of them, or 44%, affected with the strain of HPV responsible for causing cancer.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is transmitted between sexual partners during regular vaginal intercourse as well as anal and oral sex, and genital-to-genital contact. The virus affects 20 million Americans and 6 million are infected each year. This is according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some of the many known strains of HPV can cause genital warts, while others have been linked to the development of cancer. It is estimated that 12,000 U.S. women get cervical cancer annually, due to HPV. Other cancers associated with HPV transmission, such as vulvar, vaginal, anal, and penile cancers, are far less common. The CDC says that 1% of sexually active United States adults have genital warts. The strains of HPV responsible for causing genital warts differ from the HPV strains that cause cancer. There is no way to predict the risk factor for developing cancer from the cancer-causing strains of HPV.
The study conducted by McGill University was performed in collaboration with researchers from Universite de Montreal/Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal (CHUM) and is the first study of this scale conducted on HPV infection in couples at the early stage of their sexual relationships. Researchers feel that early on in the relationship is a crucial stage worthy of study, since this is likeliest time for transmission of the HPV infection. The participants are young female university or college students in Montreal and their partners. Participants in this ongoing study will fill out questionnaires about their sexual history and will also give genital specimens to be tested for HPV.
The results until now show a high probability for HPV transmission between partners. Where one partner has a confirmed case of HPV, there is a 42% chance the other partner will become infected. Coordinator for the project, Dr. Ann Burchell notes that, “these results build on our knowledge that HPV infection is very common among young adults, and underline the importance of prevention programs for HPV-associated diseases such as cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination."