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Cancer virus carried by under-16s

20th September 2007

Research suggests that at least one in 10 girls in England are affected by a virus which can cause cervical cancer.

cervical cancer

The study, by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), discovered that many of the teenagers have at least one strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Researchers tested blood samples from 1,483 females aged 10 to 29 for signs of HPV infection and found that by the age of 18 around one in five show signs of infection, and by the age of 24 the figure climbs to around 40%.

The results published in the British Journal of Cancer found the risk of infection is “substantial� by the age of 14.

A vaccination programme for girls as young as 12 is set to begin next year, though the proposal has attracted criticism amid fears that it will encourage promiscuity.

HPA chief executive Professor Pat Troop said: “This study is a valuable addition to our understanding of HPV infection in women in England and should contribute to effective policies to prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.

“With the government’s recent announcement of the possible introduction of HPV vaccination, such research will help us and other public health experts to determine the impact of HPV vaccination.�

Cervical cancer kills more than 1,000 every year in the UK with HPV responsible for most cases.

The Department of Health plans to start a HPV vaccination programme next year with girls aged 12 to 13 offered the vaccine in three doses over a six-month period, though it will not be compulsory.

 

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