Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Women carrying the high-risk strain of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, also have a heightened risk of heart and blood vessel disease, particularly if they're obese, a new study says.
That means that women who have cancer-causing HPV have a 22 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who don't, according to a study published Thursday in Circulation Research. In fact, obese women with high-risk HPV had two-thirds higher risk than of developing cardiovascular disease, as were women with high-risk HPV and metabolic syndrome.
The researchers adjusted their estimates for other variables in participating women, including alcohol use, exercise, education level, body mass index, or BMI, smoking and family history of cardiovascular disease.
"A better understanding of high-risk HPV as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and possible combined effects of high-risk HPV, obesity and metabolic syndrome in increasing cardiovascular disease risk may help improve preventive strategies and patient outcomes," Seungho Ryu, a researcher at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital and study senior author, said in a press release.
The study, which ran from 2011 to 2016, included more than 63,000 Korean women with an average age of 40, who did not have cardiovascular disease. Their average BMI was 22 and slightly more than 7 percent were infected with high-risk HPV.
The women who smoked and drank alcohol were more likely to have high-risk HPV, along with women who exercised regularly, researchers reported. Women with a college degree, however, had a lower likelihood of having high-risk HPV.
Roughly 79 million people in the U.S. have HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To prevent cervical cancer, the agency recommends women between ages 21 and 65 to get screened for the virus.
HPV is passed along through sexual activity.
The World Health Organization says that more than 100 HPV strains exist, and at least 14 of those are high-risk, or cancer-causing.
"Further studies are required to identify specific high-risk HPV genotypes that may contribute to cardiovascular disease and to examine whether vaccine strategies to reduce high-risk HPV infection for cancer prevention may also help reduce cardiovascular disease," Ryu said.