MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer-causing strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase a woman's odds for heart disease, even if she doesn't have any of the recognized cardiovascular risk factors, a new study suggests.
It's the first investigation of a possible link between heart disease and HPV, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted pathogens in the United States and already well known for causing cervical cancers and other malignancies. Vaccines do exist that guard against HPV.
In their study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,500 women, aged 20 to 59, in the 2003-2006 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of those women, almost 45 percent carried some form of HPV and about 23 percent had the cancer-causing strains of the virus.
The researchers found a strong association between cancer-causing HPV strains and heart disease, according to the team at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston.
They point out that nearly a fifth of people who have heart disease also don't have common risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. That means that, "other 'nontraditional' causes may be involved in the development of the disease. HPV appears to be one such factor among women," study author Dr. Ken Fujise, director of the cardiology division at the hospital, said in a UTMB news release.
"This has important clinical implications," he added. "First, the HPV vaccine may also help prevent heart disease. Second, physicians should monitor patients with cancer-associated HPV to prevent heart attack and stroke, as well as HPV patients already diagnosed with [cardiovascular disease] to avoid future cardiovascular events."
There could also be a biological explanation for a HPV-heart disease link, the team said. They noted that HPV causes cancer by inactivating two tumor suppressor genes, p53 and retinoblastoma p
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