(HealthDay News) – Among U.S. women with a sexual debut before the sexual revolution, a lower cumulative probability of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection may be masking an age-related increase in HPV reactivation, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Patti E. Gravitt, PhD, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues enrolled 843 women (aged 35–60 years) into a two-year, semiannual follow-up study. Stratification by sexual risk (lower risk of prior infection: fewer than five self-reported lifetime sex partners; higher risk of prior infection: five or more lifetime sex partners) was used to estimate age-specific HPV prevalence.

The researchers found that, among women with lower risk of prior infection, but not among those with a higher risk, the age-specific prevalence of 14 HR-HPV genotypes significantly declined with age. Among older women, the population attributable risk (PAR) for HR-HPV due to five or more lifetime sex partners was higher (87.2%), compared to younger women (28%). However, the PAR associated with a new sex partner was higher among younger women aged 35–49 years (28%) compared to women aged 50–60 years (7.7%).

“In summary, we propose that the cohort effect of the sexual revolution in the United States is masking an increase in HPV prevalence at older ages, which may be secondary to reactivation of ‘latent’ infection,” the authors write.

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