Over half of sexually active people will contract HPV during their lives, which is a pretty sobering statistic even when considering the impressive recent results of the HPV vaccine. Most people's bodies do get rid of the virus on their own—but for those whose bodies don't, there may be a link between persistent HPV and alcohol consumption.
Persistent HPV is when the infection lingers and—depending on what strain of the virus sticks around—could cause serious cervical health risks. According to a new study from the journal Epidemiology & Infection, drinking alcohol may increase the risk of persistent HPV in woman. After testing over 9,000 women for HPV and questioning them about their drinking habits, scientists at the National Cancer Center in Korea found that current drinkers were nearly three times more likely than non-drinkers to test positive for HPV, and women who'd been drinking for five or more years had more than double the risk of persistent HPV than those who started drinking less than five years earlier. They also found that the likelihood of someone having persistent HPV increased with the number of drinks per sitting.
In the published paper, the researchers offered two main conclusions: First, that alcohol could cause folate deficiency, which could potentially alter your DNA, a known precursor to cancer; second, they noted that nearly 10 percent of the drinkers in the study were smokers, and tobacco might suppress the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off the HPV virus. Either way, it's another reason to watch your alcohol intake—a rager of a Friday night could have way more lasting effects than the hangover.