The human papilloma virus (HPV) has increased its prevalence in Spain in recent years due to other causes, and according to a study carried out by the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), the changes that have occurred in the sexual habits of the population.
According to the data obtained with this work, which is based on the analysis of a representative sample of the female population, which has included 3,200 women between 18 and 65 years of age, it is estimated that 14% of Spanish women (two million in total) are already infected by HPV, and this percentage reaches 29% when only the group of women between the ages of 18 and 25 is taken into account.
One of the factors that has contributed the most to the expansion of the virus among the youngest ones -explain the researchers-, is that the age at which they begin to have sexual intercourse and the number of sexual partners they have has also increased. Thus, while women between 56 and 65 years of age started having sex at an average of 22.7 years, those between 18 and 25 did so at 16.9 years, and 45% of them have already had between two and four sexual partners, compared to 16% of the older ones.
80% of sexually active women will be exposed to HPV at some time in their lives, hence the importance of taking prophylactic measures
HPV has many variants but in the ICO research, which has been published in the Journal of Medical Virology, the vast majority of the types of virus that were diagnosed (84%) were high-risk strains, such as HPV 16 which is considered the main responsible for the onset of cervical cancer, and which was detected most frequently.
Other types of cancer that have been associated with the presence of human papillomavirus are vagina and anus (in 80% of cases), and vulva and penis (in 40%), in addition to being directly related with the appearance of a type of carcinoma in the oral cavity, and detected in 90% of the genital warts.
Xavier Castellsagué, head of the Infection and Cancer Unit of the ICO and responsible for the study, warns that the results reveal that HPV infection, in addition to being the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide, is also more frequent in Spain. what was thought, and calls for the extension of preventive measures, such as the vaccine against the virus, both to women between 18 and 26 years -which are not currently included in the vaccination campaign of public health-, as well as to those They are already infected.
Castellsagué has indicated that 80 percent of sexually active women will be exposed to this virus at some point in their lives, hence the importance of taking prophylactic measures. Although thanks to the action of the immune system, also eight out of ten women who come into contact with the virus will get rid of it, the rest (20%) will become chronic carriers and may in turn infect other people. In addition, around 5% of those who remain infected also run the risk of developing a pre-cancer or cancer.