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Prev Med. 2008 Feb;46(2):87-98. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Knowledge about infection with human papillomavirus: a systematic review.

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Institute of Medical Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics, Hospital of the University of Mainz, 55101 Mainz, Germany.



Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a necessary cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. The aim of this systematic literature review was to provide an overview of knowledge about HPV infection among the public, students, patients and health professionals.


PubMed searches were performed and the results of studies were reported by age, gender, study population, country, recruitment score and year of study conduct. The recruitment score covered the mode of recruitment, study size and response rate.


We included 39 studies published between 1992 and 2006 covering a total of 19,986 participants. The proportion of participants who had heard of HPV varied from 13% to 93%. Understanding that HPV is a risk factor for cervical cancer depended on whether the question was closed (8-68%) or open (0.6-11%). Between 5% and 83% knew about the association of HPV and (genital) warts. HPV was often mistaken with other sexually transmitted viruses. Health professionals and women had better knowledge about HPV than other participants.


Overall, the knowledge of the general public about HPV infection is poor. Efforts should be increased to give sufficient and unbiased information on HPV infection to the general public.

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