April 11 (UPI) -- Infection rates are rising for women under age 40 throughout the United States who haven't received the HPV vaccine, a new study says.
This spike in infections is putting those women at a higher risk for a variety of cancers, 90 percent of which are otherwise preventable, according to a study published Tuesday in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
"If we know which groups of people have the highest rates of HPV, we can do a better job of preventing cancer through vaccination and screening," said Andrew Brouwer, a researcher at University of Michigan and study author, in a news release.
Close to 80 million people in the U.S. are infected with HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency estimates that having HPV can lead to more than 40,000 cases of cancers that include anal, oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
The CDC predicts that at least half of sexually active men and women will contract the virus in their lifetimes.
HPV testing for women began in 2003, so it's been difficult for health professionals to track changes in the virus since before then.
Recently, an experimental therapy has been shown to remove HPV in one-third of cervical cancer precursors.
"Did everyone in this cohort have higher HPV throughout their lifetimes? Or is it more a function of biological or behavior changes when people reach this age?" Brouwer said.
Moving forward, the researchers will try to figure out the HPV transmissions pathways between anal, genital and oral locations.