At least 10% of women in England have been infected with human papillomavirus by the age of 16, warns the Health Protection Agency.
An agency study, the first of its kind in England, investigated the proportion of women aged 10-29 years who had antibodies indicating they had been infected with HPV.
Researchers tested blood samples from 1,483 girls and women for types of HPV that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
Pat Troop, chief executive of the agency, said the study would contribute to developing effective policies to prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.
'With the government's recent announcement of the possible introduction of HPV vaccination, such research will help us and other public health experts to determine the impact of HPV vaccination,' she said.
The study results are being presented today at the Health Protection Agency conference in Coventry.