A new study concludes that regular condom use can help stop the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in young women. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked 82 female college students beginning in 2001 who reported their first intercourse with a male partner either during the study or within two weeks prior to enrollment. Cervical samples were collected every four months at routine gynecological examinations, and the women used electronic diaries every two weeks to record their sexual behaviors.
The study concludes that women whose partners always used condoms are 70 percent less likely to contract HPV, and that women whose partners used condoms over half of the time were 50 percent less likely to contract HPV. Researchers believe that incorrect condom use or sexual contact prior to using a condom may explain the infections that occurred among women whose partners used condoms, according to the Associated Press. Since the study began, the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent several types of HPV that often lead to cervical cancer.
The FDA was persuaded in November to consider rewriting the warning labels on condoms. The Baltimore Sun reports that the new label would say that condoms provide “less protection” from herpes and HPV because of transmission via skin contact. “Those who are opposed to condoms claim condoms are not very effective, particularly against HPV,” said James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, according to the Sun. “Here we have an actual study, rather than just an assertion. Condom use prevented HPV infection 70 percent of the time. That’s pretty good.”