Use of condoms during sex not only stops transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and prevents pregnancy but could also protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer, a study finds. HPV is transmitted from one person to another during sexual contact. Certain high-risk types of this virus are considered to be the leading cause of cervical cancer.

By the age of about 50, at least 80 per cent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reported the online edition of New Scientist.Until now, the effectiveness of condoms against HPV has been unclear. In fact, some studies have suggested that condoms do not offer protection against the virus. But now the most detailed study of condom use and HPV to date finds that they do markedly reduce the risk, it said. Scientists led by Rachel Winer of the University of Washington in Seattle analysed data from 82 sexually inexperienced female university students who kept journals about their daily sexual behaviour.

They found that women who reported 100 per cent condom use by their partners were 70 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with HPV than those whose partners used condoms less than five per cent of the time.And none of the women whose partners always used condoms developed dangerous cervical lesions, they said. Always using a condom during sex can reduce a woman's risk of acquiring the virus that causes cervical cancer by up to 70 per cent, the study suggests. A vaccine against cervical cancer has just been approved in the US, but people will still need to use condoms to protect themselves against the illness, researchers say.This is because the vaccine only protects against some of the strains of human (HPV).

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