Duke Researchers Find Racial Disparity In HPV Infections

Oct 30, 2013

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) found in a Pap smear
Credit Ed Uthman / Flickr Creative Commons

A study out of Duke University suggests the HPV vaccine might not be as effective for African-American women. 

The vaccine protects against two subtypes of the Human papillomavirus that cause 70 percent of cases that develop into cervical cancer, but researchers found black women are half as likely as white women to be infected with those strains. 

The findings could help explain racial discrepancies in the rates of cancer.

"What we did was conduct a study based on the understanding that we seem to have a much higher incidence of cervical cancer in black women than white women, but if you actually look at who is screened, black women have a much higher screening rate," says the study's lead author, Catherine Hoyo.

She says the numbers were consistent regardless of the stage of the disease.

"Have we been so successful that these are the ones that are beginning to come up; the other 30 percent?  That's the question that we don't know the answer to, but... maybe the next time we develop these vaccines, we would include these (statistics) if the numbers hold," Hoyo says.

A new HPV vaccine is in the trial phase, but it does not prevent the three subtypes that Hoyo found were most common in African-American women. She presented the findings at Monday's International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.