Researchers have reported that race may influence a woman's risk of having cervical cancer from Human papillomavirus (HPV).
The study conducted by Fu Xi, at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, and his colleagues to find out how race may influence vulnerability to HPV revealed that a variant of the HPV from a particular geographical region would infect a woman longer if her ancestors come from the same region.
HPV is common infection in about 50% of sexually active women aged between 18 and 22. Though the body's immune system clears up the infection, some may remain to cause cervical cancer.
The study was conducted for a period of 2 years in over a 1000 women infected with the virus. Samples from each patient's cervical swab involved in the study were analyzed to determine the genetic code to trace the region from which it evolved.
Rob DeSalle, an expert in evolutionary genetics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York states that its possible to trace the evolutionary history HPV as it maintains its evolutionary history, unlike HIV which mutates rapidly leading to loss of evolutionary information.
In their study, researchers found that infections linked to the European variant of the HPV-16 strain persisted for about 17 months on average in white women while they last only 13 months on average in African-American women. Similarly infections of African variants were found to last longer in African-American women than white women.
The virus adapting to the genetic makeup of the local human population is thought to be the cause for variants of a certain origin being better suited to infect women with ancestors from the same place even though exact cause is still not known.
The findings of the study are in contrast to other studies that have found non-European variants of HPV to be more likely to cause cancer in white women than European ones, but Xi says the previous studies are too small to be definitive.
The findings of this study linking race to cancer risk could be helpful in preventing the cervical cancer as knowing the variant of the disease would make a women be more mindful of the infection leading to better followup care.