Could the HPV Vaccine Prevent Heart Disease in Women?

by Dr Sam Girgis on October 24, 2011

The HPV vaccine has attracted attention from both the medical community and the media.  We have previously discussed the recent finding that the HPV vaccination program in Australia decreased the incidence of high grade cervical abnormalities by 38% in Australian females.  Not since the introduction of the Pap smear, which reduced the cervical cancer death rate in the United States by 70%, have we seen such improvements in the treatment and prevention of this deadly malignancy.  In addition, the recent Republican presidential debate saw the HPV vaccine become the focal point of a contentious disagreement.  Research conducted at the University of Texas by Dr. Hsu-Ko Kuo and Dr. Ken Fujise suggests that infection with the HPV (human papillomavirus) could be associated with cardiovascular disease in women.  The results of the study were published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  The objective of the study was to study the association between HPV and cardiovascular disease in women enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Data from 2,450 women aged 20 to 59 years of age were evaluated from the years 2003 to 2006.  The investigators used self collected vaginal swab specimens that were tested for HPV DNA using polymerase chain reaction assays and self reported diagnosis of heart attack or stroke.  There were sixty women who had coronary artery disease, and the investigators found that the presence of vaginal HPV DNA was associated with cardiovascular disease.  This association remained after controlling for health/ sex behaviors, medical comorbidities, and cardiovascular risk factors.  It was concluded by the authors that “HPV infection, especially cancer-associated oncogenic types, is associated with [cardiovascular disease] among women”.  The authors also wrote, “In addition to being a causative pathogen for cervical cancer, HPV appears to have roles in the management and prevention of [cardiovascular disease] among women. Detecting the presence of a HPV infection may be useful in identifying and targeting women at risk for subsequent [cardiovascular disease] who may require additional attention to avoid the development of cardiovascular events… our findings may serve as a theoretical basis for additional benefit in cardiovascular health with HPV vaccination for women”.  More studies are needed to elucidate the exact pathological mechanism for the involvement of HPV in the etiology of cardiovascular disease in woman.  The authors suggest an involvement of the p53 and Rb tumor suppressor gene products.  This theory will need further corroboration.  In addition, the use of the HPV vaccine in men will need to be studied to determine if it may serve a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in men as well.

Reference:

Hsu-Ko Kuo et al. “Human Papillomavirus and Cardiovascular Disease Among U.S. Women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2006J Am Coll Cardiol Vol. 58, No. 19, 2011 doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2011.07.038

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