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Monday, July 14, 2014

You Have Been Exposed, but Will You Get HPV?

HPV exposure is almost universal, but even without vaccination, not everyone exposed tests positive and not everyone who tests positive will go on to develop abnormal pap smears or cancers. Other factors will determine whether you will test positive for HPV, and the list is mounting as to what these factors are. Smoking, menopause, poor immunity, frequent exposure to the HPV virus are just a few of the factors that have been associated with a positive HPV test.  Birth control pills have effects on the cervix and the uterus, and these effects have been well studied and discussed in many forums, they cause an enlargement of the sensitive t-zone area of the cervix that might make picking up an HPV infection easier. One group that has been particularly active in this research has been the International Agency for Reseach on Cancer . This group feels that taking birth control will increase your risk for cervical cancer by about double. But whether this directly is mediated through the effects on HPV or through the effects on some other aspect of our health, such as exposure to herbals, is still being debated. We like to test for HPV presence, particularly the presence or absence of High Risk HPV types, and rely on that test.And extremely accurate tests have been developed, such as the Aptima test.  But for a long time women have suspected there is something else that accounts for whether those tests are positive or negative besides just the fact that HPV is or is not present. And a new factor has just surfaced. Tests are more likely to be positive during certain times of the menstrual cycle. With tests reading slightly more positive later in the cycle in this recent study, although mid cycle peaks in detection have been previously reported. There is some biologic plausibility as to why this would occur. It has to do with the effects of hormones on various types of immunity which in turn would change how much HPV would be controlled or thriving. But don't worry about when to schedule your HPV test, the menstrual cycle won't affect whether it turns out positive. This is a very active area of research right now, there will be a lot more to read about.

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