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HPV vaccine does not increase risky sexual behavior among young women: Study

The human papillomavirus (HPV) does not lead to riskier sexual activity among young women, according to new research.

The new study, which was published in Pediatrics on Feb. 2, examined whether young women's sexual behavior changed after they were vaccinated.

"We hope this study reassures parents, and thus improves HPV vaccination rates, which in turn will reduce rates of cervical and other cancers that can result from HPV infection," Dr. Jessica Kahn, a physician in the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's, said in a press release.

Previous studies have also showed that the HPV vaccine is not linked to increased promiscuity at an earlier age.

"The findings strengthen a growing body of literature that indicates that getting HPV vaccination is very unlikely to change an adolescent's perception about risk and also their actual sexual behavior," Dr. Amanda Dempsey, a pediatrician and vaccine research at the University of Colorado, Denver who was not involved in the new study, told Reuters.

HPVs are a group of around 100 common viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with an HPV strain.

Two types of HPV -- strains 16 and 18 --  have been linked to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and another two -- strains 6 and 11 -- cause 90 percent of genital warts.

About 40 HPV strains can be transmitted sexually and have been linked to cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils), cervix, vulva, vagina, penis and anus. 

Almost all sexually active men and women are expected to get HPV at some point in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although most cases do not develop into cancer. 

More than 300 girls between the ages of 13 to 21 were included in the Pediatrics survey. They were asked about their knowledge about the HPV vaccine and sexually transmitted infections before receiving the vaccine and then again two and six months after.

The results showed that showed that overall the girls did not change their attitudes towards safe sex, whether they thought the vaccine increased or decreased their risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection other than HPV.

The majority said they believed safe sex was still important after they were vaccinated, and they correctly understood that the vaccination did not protect them against other STIs.

Two HPV vaccines are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Gardasil, which is approved for anyone between the age of nine and 26, prevents strains 6, 11, 16, and 18. Cervarix, which is approved for women between 10 and 25, protects against strains 16 and 18. 

The vaccine is administered to teen girls and women before the age of 26, and teen boys and young men before the age of 21. However, it is recommended that people receive the vaccine around the ages of 11 and 12 before they are exposed to HPV.

The CDC believes that the HPV vaccine has decreased the rate of infection with HPV strains linked to genital warts and some cancers by as much as 56 percent among teen girls.

"The vaccines that are available right now are one of our only protections against HPV," Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, previously told CBS News

But the CDC reported that between 2011 and 2012, only 54 percent of girls between 13 and 17 received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Just 33 percent completed the entire three-dose series. 

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