Objective: To determine the prevalence of high-risk (cancer-associated) human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in U.S. women, identify sociodemographic factors associated with infection, and explore the implications for prevention of HPV-related disease in the vaccination era.
Methods: Women aged 14-59 years (n=1,921) participating in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey provided a vaginal swab which was evaluated for 37 HPV types. We determined which sociodemographic characteristics were associated with high-risk HPV, using logistic regression models.
Results: High-risk HPV infection was present in 15.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 12.6-18.6%) of participants, corresponding to a population prevalence of 12,028,293 U.S. women. Women living below the poverty line, compared with those living three or more times above it, were more likely to be positive for high-risk HPV (23% versus 12%, P = .03). Among participants living below the poverty line, only Mexican-American ethnicity (odds ratio [OR] 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.9) and unmarried status (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.2-8.9) were associated with HPV prevalence. In contrast, several factors were associated with HPV among participants living above the poverty line, including black race (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0-2.0), income (OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.84-0.99), unmarried status (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.0), and age (OR for 22-25 year olds 2.4, 95% CI 1.4-4.0).
Conclusion: High-risk HPV infection is common in U.S. women, particularly in poor women. Cervical cancer prevention efforts in the vaccination era must ensure that all low-income women have access to preventive services including education, Pap test screening, and HPV vaccines. Otherwise, existing disparities in cervical cancer could worsen.