Women living in Latin American countries bear a disproportionate burden of cervical cancer, a condition caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). We performed a study in Santa Elena, Guayas (currently Santa Elena Province), Ecuador, to determine how often HPV could be detected in women attending a private cancer screening clinic. Participants underwent a Pap test, and vaginal and cervical swabs were performed for HPV testing by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Each participant completed a verbally administered survey. The mean age of 302 participants was 37.7 years (range 18 to 78 years). The majority of cervical and vaginal specimens contained sufficient DNA to perform PCR. Overall, 24.2% of the participants had either a cervical or vaginal swab that tested positive for HPV. In general, there was a good correlation between the HPV types detected in the cervical and vaginal swabs from the participants, but vaginal swabs were more likely to contain HPV DNA than were cervical swabs. The high-risk HPV types 16, 52, 58, and 59 and the low-risk HPV types 62, 71, 72, and 83 were the most frequently detected HPV types. The number of lifetime sexual partners was positively associated with detection of any HPV type, detection of oncogenic HPV, and abnormal Pap smears. Further studies are needed to determine if these results are representative of all Ecuadorian women and to determine if cervical cancers in Ecuadorian women are caused by the same HPV types found in the swab specimens obtained in this study
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