Background and objectives: The most important risk factor for cervical neoplasia is genital infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts (GW) are an easily recognizable condition caused by HPV. Although only a fraction of HPV infections are clinical, a history of ever having had GW could serve as a marker for exposure to HPV.
Goals: To study the risk factors for ever having had GW. The association of GW with abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) smear and relation to cervical neoplasia is also discussed.
Study design: A case-control study among 10,838 women aged 20 to 29 years and reporting at least one lifetime sexual partner. The women were participants in a prospective cohort study on the relationship between HPV and cervical neoplasia in Copenhagen, Denmark. Data were obtained by means of personal interviews using structured questionnaires.
Results: In all, 1,820 women (17%) reported ever having had GW. The most important risk factor was the number of lifetime of sexual partners (adjusted odds ratio 5.2; 95% confidence interval: 3.4-8.0) for at least 40 partners vs. 1 to 2 partners). The number of regular partners, sexually active years, a history of chlamydial infection, and smoking were also associated with the risk of ever having had GW. Women who had had GW were 1.9 times more likely than other women to report an abnormal Pap smear.
Conclusions: The study confirms the sexual transmission of the infection. There is also good concordance between risk factors for ever having had GW and cervical neoplasia. A close relationship between having had GW and an abnormal Pap smear was observed.