At least 10% of girls have contracted a sexual infection linked to cancer by the time they are 16 years old, new figures show.
Research by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates that at least one in 10 young women in England have caught one or more strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) by that age.
And the study also warns of a "substantial risk" of young girls having an HPV infection by the age of 14.
The analysis published in the British Journal of Cancer also claims that by the age of 18, around a fifth of girls show signs of having contracted HPV and, by the age of 24, around 40% do so.
Back in June, the Government said it wanted to start vaccinating girls as young as 12 against HPV from next year.
Andrew Vyse, who presented the findings at the HPA's annual conference in Warwick, said: "This study gives us vital information about how common HPV infection is in young women of different ages.
"However, it does have some limitations and does not give a precise estimate of infection rates in young women in England, therefore more work needs to be done.
"The study adds to what we already know about HPV, however we still need to learn more about the risks of infection and of the risks for persistent infection and progression to cancer."
British Journal of Cancer
Copyright © PA Business 2007
You are currently leaving the Nursing in Practice site. Are you sure you want to proceed?