Could HPV Raise Women's Risk for Heart
MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer-causing strains of
the human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase a woman's odds for
heart disease, even if she doesn't have any of the recognized
cardiovascular risk factors, a new study suggests.
It's the first investigation of a possible link between heart
disease and HPV, which is one of the most common sexually
transmitted pathogens in the United States and already well known
for causing cervical cancers and other malignancies. Vaccines do
exist that guard against HPV.
In their study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,500
women, aged 20 to 59, in the 2003-2006 U.S. National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey. Of those women, almost 45 percent
carried some form of HPV and about 23 percent had the
cancer-causing strains of the virus.
The researchers found a strong association between
cancer-causing HPV strains and heart disease, according to the team
at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston.
They point out that nearly a fifth of people who have heart
disease also don't have common risk factors, such as obesity,
smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. That means that,
"other 'nontraditional' causes may be involved in the development
of the disease. HPV appears to be one such factor among women,"
study author Dr. Ken Fujise, director of the cardiology division at
the hospital, said in a UTMB news release.
"This has important clinical implications," he added. "First, the HPV vaccine may also help prevent heart disease. Second, physicians should monitor patients with cancer-associated HPV to prevent heart attack and stroke, as well as HPV patients already diagnosed with [cardiovascular disease] to avoid future cardiovascular events."
There could also be a biological explanation for a HPV-heart
disease link, the team said. They noted that HPV causes cancer by
inactivating two tumor suppressor genes, p53 and retinoblastoma
protein (pRb). Previous research has shown that p53 is essential in
regulating the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the
arteries), the researchers explained.
However, the link remains observational and causation has yet to
be proven. "We're not certain if there is a cause-and-effect
relationship between the [HPV and heart disease]," Fujise
There does seem to be an association between the two, however,
and, "if this biological mechanism is proven, a drug compound that
inhibits the inactivation of p53 could help prevent CVD in women
already infected with HPV," Fujise said.
Two experts in women's cardiovascular health applauded the
"It is great that researchers are thinking out of the box to assess cardiovascular risk in women," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health and the Women's Heart Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City. "If more studies confirm these new research findings linking HPV to cardiovascular disease, this would be an additional tool for doctors to assess a women's cardiovascular risk. It would also get younger women to take their hearts seriously."
Cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Stenbaum agreed, calling the new study
"Due to the public health implications and the pervasiveness of this disease, this correlation sheds a new light on the assessment and risk factor analysis of heart disease in women, many of whom have HPV," said Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This lends a new direction into the understanding of who is at risk for heart disease and therefore another means for us to prevent it."
Fujise said more research is needed to investigate any possible
link between HPV and heart disease in men.
The study received funding from grants from the American Heart
The U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has more about
heart disease in women.
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