Six Percent Prevalence of Genital Warts: Rates Likely to Decrease with Introduction of Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Article ID: 539193

Released: 31-Mar-2008 2:00 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

Newswise — About six percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with genital warts, reports a study in the April issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry.

The recently introduced human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine—intended to prevent cervical cancer—is likely to lead to reduced rates of genital warts in the future, according to the report by Dr. Thu-Ha Din and colleagues of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a series of nationally representative surveys, nearly 11,000 sexually active men and women, aged 18 to 59, provided information on their sexual behavior and medical history, including whether a doctor had ever told them they had genital warts. Also called condylomata acuminata, genital warts are a common sexually transmitted disease caused by specific types of HPV.

Overall, 5.6 percent of adults surveyed had been diagnosed with genital warts. The rate was higher in women—three times higher than in men, after adjustment for other factors. It was uncertain whether this reflected a true difference in risk or was related to other factors, such as differences in the recognition or diagnosis of warts.

The prevalence of genital warts was highest, 10.5 percent, among women aged 25 to 34. For men, prevalence peaked at 6.0 percent between the ages of 35 and 44. Risk was also higher among non-Hispanic whites, compared to Hispanics and blacks.

However, the main risk factor for genital warts was number of sex partners. Risk was nearly eight times higher for adults with more than ten lifetime partners, compared to those with one or two partners.

Genital warts are a common problem with a considerable impact on health care costs, as well as a source of psychological stress and shame for patients. The warts are treatable, but can be difficult to eliminate and may come back after treatment. In women, HPV infection increases the risk of cervical cancer.

Recently, a new vaccine (Gardasil) was approved to reduce cervical cancer risk by preventing HPV infection in women. The HPV vaccine is currently recommended for girls and young women aged 9 to 26. By reducing HPV infections, the vaccine is likely to decrease the rate and impact of genital warts in the years ahead.

The results provide a "critical piece of information" about the impact of HPV-related diseases in the United States, according to an accompanying editorial by Drs. Amanda F. Dempsey of University of Michigan and Laura A. Koutsky of University of Washington. Many studies have addressed the high burden of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions caused by HPV infection. In contrast, there has been little information about the rates, costs, and impact of genital warts.

"Because the HPV vaccine currently licensed in the U.S. provides protection against genital warts and cervical cancer, understanding the national burden of genital warts is critical to being able to evaluate the population-level impact of national HPV vaccination campaigns," Drs. Dempsey and Koutsky write. They call for further studies to identify high-risk groups that should be targeted for additional efforts to maximize HPV vaccine use.

About Sexually Transmitted DiseasesSexually Transmitted Diseases publishes original, peer-reviewed articles on articles on clinical, laboratory, immunologic, epidemiologic, behavioral, public health, and historical topics pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases and related fields. Reports from the CDC and NIH provide up-to-the-minute information. A highly respected editorial board is composed of prominent scientists who are leaders in this rapidly changing field. Included in each issue are studies and developments from around the world. Sexually Transmitted Diseases is the official journal of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association, the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections and the Scandinavian Society for Genito-Urinary Medicine. Visit the journal website at

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