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Study in Nordic countries shows increasing burden of genital warts

A study of nearly 70,000 women aged 18-45 years from four Nordic countries, reveals at least one in ten women reported having had at least one episode of clinically diagnosed genital warts.

The proportions were 9.5% in Norway, 10.1% in Denmark, 11.3% in Sweden and 12.0% in Iceland. The results published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases also indicate an increasing occurrence of genital warts in young women.

This is the largest study to assess the occurrence of genital warts. In contrast to the majority of previous studies that focused on selected populations this study was conducted on a nationwide basis investigating random samples from the general population with the results providing insights into genital warts occurrence in the general population in Europe.

"Genital warts are very frequent among women and strike at young ages in Nordic countries, and there is no reason to believe that this is different in the rest of Europe", comments Professor Susanne Kruger-Kjaer from the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen. "These results will help
policymakers better understand the tremendous burden of genital warts."

In the UK recent reports show the diagnosis of genital warts has increased by more than five times between 1972 and 2006 and reached 60,000 cases in women alone in 2006.

Over the last 10 years, reports of newly diagnosed genital warts in the UK have increased by 22%.

Recurrent cases accounted for almost a third of cases presenting to GUM clinics and a further 12% were for episodes requiring treatment for more than three months. Diagnoses have been consistently most frequent in young adults, with rates six times higher among women aged 16-24 years than in women in total.

In their last report, the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) said: "If the prevention of warts is included in the vaccine programme's objectives, a fairly rapid reduction in genital warts in young age groups should be seen."
"Exposure to human papillomavirus is sufficiently common that it is an inevitable part of adolescent and adult life through normal loving relationships," says Professor Charles Lacey from the UK's Hull York Medical School.

"Genital warts are a huge economic and psychological burden; I believe we need to implement population-based cervical cancer vaccination with a vaccine that can also help prevent other human papillomavirus-related genital diseases, including genital warts."