The prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) is higher among women born after 1980 compared with those born during the 1970s.

The vaccine for HPV, which was approved for females in 2006 and males in 2009, prevents more than 90 percent of cancers associated with the virus. An estimated 40,000 new cases of cancer in the United States are attributable to HPV, including cervical, mouth and throat, anal and genital cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in two sexually active men and women will contract the virus during their lifetime.

Andrew Brouwer, PhD, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and colleagues developed a new mathematical model that can better estimate HPV infection trends.

The United States did not begin testing for genital HPV among women until 2003 and then started doing so among men in 2013. Consequently, researchers seeking to chart HPV infection patterns over time, including making projections about future trends, lack direct data from earlier dates to feed into their analyses.

Analyses conducted prior to this new study relied on HPV DNA, an indicator of current infection, or antibodies, which indicate a past infection. Such analyses have not proved particularly reliable.

For their new paper, the investigators used a model that factored in HPV DNA and antibody data as well as mathematical representations of the mechanisms behind HPV infection, viral clearance and the development of antibodies. The study relied on 2003 to 2010 data on women drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

This more comprehensive model proved more precise than the older analytical method.


Looking at HPV prevalence according to women’s birth year, the model estimated that rates of the virus reached a “small peak” among those born in the mid-1960s, followed by a dip through 1980 and a “substantial rise” by the mid-1980s.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.