BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES - Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of the female genital tract is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Although the prevalence of HPV in women without detectable cervical disease has been shown to decline with increasing age, the relationship to sexual behavior has not been investigated.
GOAL - To identify risk factors for, and associated with the age-dependent decline in, genital HPV infection in women.
STUDY DESIGN - The prevalence of HPV was determined in a cohort of 439 sexually active inner-city women between the ages of 18 and 50 years recruited in Brooklyn, New York. Cervicovaginal cells were collected by lavage, and HPV was detected by low-stringent Southern blot hybridization.
RESULTS - The prevalence of HPV infection ranged from 36% in women younger than 25 years of age to 2.8% in women 45 years or older. Logistic regression analysis identified an increased risk for cervical HPV infection to be independently associated with number of sex partners in the past year (odds ratio [OR], 1.04 per yearly increase in age; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00 to 1.08), younger age (OR, 0.92 per year increase in age; 95% CI, 0.88 to 0.95), and not living with partner (OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.40 to 4.22).
CONCLUSIONS - The lower prevalence of HPV infection in older women compared to younger women was found to be independent of sexual behavior. These results suggest that a biologic effect, such as HPV immunity acquired over time and with multiple exposures, may mediate the inverse relationship between age and HPV prevalence.