HPV has already been found to cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus and throat, but if the virus fails to take you out using any of those methods, it may just give you a heart attack. Though the research is still in its primary stages, scientists have found evidence that suggests HPV might give women heart disease too.
If you're ingesting plenty of cream and butter (and carrying on illicit affairs with coworkers), doctors will probably have a good idea of where your heart troubles came from. However, since about 20% of heart disease patients aren't living like Roger Sterling and don't have any risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, researchers believe there may be something else triggering the disease that we just haven't identified yet. According to Dr. Kenichi Fujise, a cardiologist at the University of Texas, there's a possibility that HPV may be to blame.
The New York Times reports that Fujise started studying the link between HPV and heart disease because the virus has the ability to sabotage a gene that helps protect the body from cancer and artery disease. Fujise tested 2,450 women ages 20 to 59 for HPV ans asked if they'd ever suffered a heart attack or stroke. Sixty of the women had heart disease, and of those 39 also had HPV. When the results were adjusted to take risk factors into account, Fujise and his team found the women with HPV were 2.3 times more likely to have heart disease. The women who had HPV strains known to cause cancer were 2.86 times more likely to have heart disease, compared to uninfected women.
Fujise says, "I was thinking maybe there would be just a weak link or no link, but this is a strong link." Yet, he and other doctors emphasized that the link between HPV and heart disease is still just a possibility. They aren't sure if HPV is causing heart problems, if heart disease makes women more likely to pick up HPV, or if some other condition is making women more vulnerable to both HPV and heart disease. Even if the link is proven, that won't mean everyone who contracts HPV needs to worry about having a massive coronary. As with cancer, only lingering HPV infections would be cause for concern.
Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, said that Fujise's work, "has the potential, if it does pan out, to further inform the public about the potential benefits of vaccination for HPV." Since we know the vaccine reduces your chances of getting various cancers, the news that there's a possibility that it may prevent heart disease too certainly shouldn't dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. Recently we've been hearing about more and more potential benefits to getting the vaccine, so it might be time for parents to risk turning their daughters into mutants (or whatever non-existent people are telling Michele Bachmann) and get them the shots.
Image via Arber/Shutterstock.