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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Aug;19(8):2055-65. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0394.

The role of sexual behavior and human papillomavirus persistence in predicting repeated infections with new human papillomavirus types.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California-San Francisco, 3333 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA.



Although human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are common in young women, the rate of and risk for repeated new infections are not well documented. We examined the rate of and risks for new HPV detection in young women.


We used data from an ongoing study of HPV, initiated in 1990. Sexually active women ages 12 to 22 years were eligible. Interviews on behaviors and HPV testing were done at 4-month intervals; sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing was annual or if symptomatic. Starting with first HPV detection, time to the next (second) visit (event) with detection of new HPV types, and then the second event to time to third event was calculated. Risks were determined using Cox proportional hazard model.


Sixty-nine percent of 1,125 women had a second event, and of those with a second event, 63% had a third event by 3 years, respectively. Women with HPV persistence from initial visit to second event [hazard ratio (HR) = 4.51 (3.78-5.37)], an STI [HR = 1.47 (1.00-2.17)], bacterial vaginosis [HR = 1.60 (1.07-2.39)], and number of new sex partners [HR = 1.10 (1.05-1.15 per partner/mo)] were independent associations for HPV. Risks for third event were similar.


This study documents the repeated nature of HPV infections in young women and their association with sexual risk behaviors.


This finding underscores the lack of clinical utility of HPV testing in young women. Further studies are needed to examine host factors that lead to HPV acquisition and persistence.

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