Black women are less likely than white women to be infected by the most common strains of the human papillomavirus, and as a result, the current HPV vaccine may be ineffective for black women, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
The new findings were discovered by researchers at Duke University School of Medicine and presented at the annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.
Cathrine Hoyo, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke, noticed that white women and black women were being screened for cervical cancer at nearly the same rate.
"The question is, if screening rates are comparable in African-American and white women, why are the rates of cervical cancer and mortality higher among African-American women when we have a program that works so well?"
This question led Hoyo and her colleagues to study a small group in Tanzania in 2011. They discovered HPV subtypes that were more prevalent in the patient population than those targeted by the vaccine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Hoyo told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the findings are in the preliminary stages, but they underscore the importance of having racial and ethnic minorities represented in clinical trials that may result in new therapies and preventive treatments.