Risk factors for HPV vaccine are themselves risky

February 12, 2008

According to a new study in the journal Vaccine, using risk factors to determine which girls and women get the HPV vaccine isn't effective.

According to a new study in the journal Vaccine, using risk factors to determine which girls and women get the HPV vaccine isn't effective.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is often called a cervical cancer vaccine, since in women HPV is the leading cause of such cancers. But it's only effective against girls and women who have not been exposed to HPV.

One method to determine who should receive the virus was to prioritize sexually active women as high risk. But that, researchers at University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital found, means that girl and women more likely to already have HPV get the vaccine. Worse, it excludes the girls and women at low risk, who are more likely to not have HPV, and thus can be effectively vaccinated.

They used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to determine if risk factors such as drug use, number of partners, or older partners would be effective in predicting who had HPV and who did not. They found that many women with any risk factors still had HPV, making the risk factor test of dubious value.

In other HPV news, the World Health Organization is aiming to offer free HPV vaccinations to India. The plan was announced by the director of Hyderabad's Apollo Cancer Institute during a conference on women's cancers.