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Black women appear to have more difficulty clearing high-risk human papillomavirus infection from the body than white women do, according to a poster study reported at the AACR Annual Meeting (Abstract 550).

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The finding may provide a biological basis for the higher incidence of cervical cancer in black women, said Kim E. Creek, PhD, Vice Chair and Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina.


The longitudinal study involved 467 women in the Carolina Women's Care Study, 70% of whom were white and 24%, black. They were screened for HPV every six months for three years.


The incidence of new HPV infections between the two groups was similar. But at any visit, black women were 1.5 times more likely to test positive for high-risk HPV infection than white women, he said.


"Since incidence was similar but prevalence was higher, it suggests that African American women had more difficulty clearing the virus."


Additionally, black women cleared the virus more slowly: The median duration of high-risk HPV infection was 18 months vs. 12 months for white women.


He and his co-researchers also compared Pap test results and found that black women were 1.7 times more likely to have an abnormal Pap test than white women were (10.0% vs. 6.2%).


The reason for the slower clearance of HPV in black women remains unknown, and is actively being studied, he added.