Women who drink alcohol may have an increased risk of persistent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to researchers in Korea.
Some varieties of the virus have the potential to cause cervical abnormalities that can lead to cancer.
Most cases of HPV disappear on their own, but in some cases the infection persists, Yahoo Health reports. The virus is sexually transmitted.
The Korean researchers tested 9,230 women for HPV and asked them about their alcohol intake. They found women who drank alcohol were almost three times more likely than non-drinkers to test positive for HPV at the beginning of the study, and again after two years.
Women who had been drinking for five or more years were 2.3 times more likely to have persistent HPV, compared with those who started drinking less than five years before. The more women drank, the greater the odds of their having persistent HPV. Women who drank three or more glasses of beer in one sitting were three times as likely to test positive for HPV, compared with non-drinkers.
The findings are published in Epidemiology & Infection.
While it is not known why drinkers might face a higher risk of persistent HPV infection, the researchers said alcohol may lead to folate deficiency. This could alter a person's DNA, which in turn could lead to cancer, they wrote.