A new study finds that more than half of girls aged 13 or older already carry the human papillomavirus (HPV), reinforcing recommendations to give girls the shot at an early age.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends vaccination against HPV -- the leading cause of cervical cancer -- by the time girls are 11 or 12 years of age. However, parents and doctors may delay the vaccine, thinking that preteen girls have a low risk of acquiring the sexually transmitted virus.

But according to a study published Aug. 7 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, waiting until the teen years may already be too late, ABC News reported.

A team led by Dr. Lea Widdice, assistant professor of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, tested 259 females aged 13 to 21. Among the 190 who said they were already sexually active, 70 percent were already infected.

Even among girls who'd had sexual experience without intercourse, 11 percent were infected with HPV, the study found.

Widdice told ABC News that "HPV is different from other sexually transmitted infections in that it appears to be transmitted a lot more easily. Although it's most efficiently transmitted through sexual intercourse, it can definitely be transmitted through genital skin-to-skin touching."

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/08/08/health-highlights-aug-8-2012