Nightly News   |  October 24, 2011

HPV linked to heart disease?

A new study at the University of Texas-Galveston suggests that HPV – a common sexually transmitted virus linked to cancer – may also be linked to heart disease. For women infected with HPV, one in 55 are at risk for a heart attack or stroke, according to the study. NBC’s Nancy Snyderman reports.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We have heard a lot lately about the link between HPV and cancer. And tonight a new study sheds some light on another really more widespread risk that may be linked to HPV . Our chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman is here with us with more. Nancy , good evening.

Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting: Hi, Brian. Good evening. This study comes to us from the University of Texas Galveston and it suggests that there could be a link between HPV , the com -- this -- the commonly sexually transmitted virus that we talk about a lot, and it may be linked to more than cancer. In this case, heart disease in women. You've seen the commercials about HPV .

SNYDERMAN: And families are listening. Millions of girls have received the vaccine to prevent HPV and cervical cancer . In a report out today, surprising

new research links HPV to the number one killer of women: cardiovascular disease .

Dr. HSU-KO KUO (University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston): The risk of cardiovascular disease for women with HPV infection is almost two times higher.

SNYDERMAN: Dr. Kuo and his fellow researchers studied nearly 2500 women in the United States . For women infected with HPV , one in 55 are at risk for heart attack or stroke. And for those infected with specific cancer causing strains of HPV , their risk is even higher. The theory is that HPV infection causes inflammation of major arteries in the body, contributing to cardiovascular disease . This seems to be true for women without known risk factors of smoking, obesity, diabetes and family history. According to Dr. Lori Mosca , a cardiac scientist not involved in this study, HPV could be a potential missing link. Dr. LORI MOSCA ( New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center ): There's been an alarming increase in the rate of heart disease in young women aged 35 to 44 over the last decade that we can't explain. And so HPV infection may potentially be something that we need to be looking into further.

SNYDERMAN: So imagine if the vaccine that's on the market right now for HPV could prevent not only cancer but in the future heart disease . That could be a game-changer. So right now researchers are talking about, Brian , really following people long term, people who are vaccinated, people who are not vaccinated, and looking at the rates of cancer and heart disease . And tomorrow the Centers for Disease Control is going to get together and I predict that they are going now suggest this vaccine for boys in addition to girls.

WILLIAMS: Now another story on your beat.

SNYDERMAN: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: And we have some visual aids about BPA , the plastics that are liners of cans, soda cans, and make up so many plastic bottles.

SNYDERMAN: Yeah. Bisphenol A , it has been in the news for years now with the concern that it may be linked to certain cancer. You can't get away from it. It's everywhere. And a lot of them have now been off the market. We could not find a container that has a seven on it.

WILLIAMS: The number seven you look for.

SNYDERMAN: You look for a three or a seven. We couldn't find anything around here with seven. But the reason why this is important is because of a new study that just came out today. It's in the journal Pediatrics , and it has shown that women who are exposed to BPA have, in fact, increased behavioral

problems in girls at the age of three: hyperactivity, aggression and anxiety. That's important because especially in girls BPA is known to act like a synthetic estrogen. So it's not a perfect study. None of them ever has been, but it's important to look at the bottom of these containers, and then you have to decide as a parent is it worth it to put any of your containers up and use these containers, and certainly don't heat them because that's when things leech out.

WILLIAMS: All right. A lot of health news tonight. Nancy Snyderman , thanks for all of it.

SNYDERMAN: A bunch. You're welcome.