Human Papillomavirus(HPV) consists of more that 200 viruses. More than 40 strains of HPV is contracted through direct sexual contact, from skin and mucous membranes of infected people. HPV affects the genital area- the vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, or scrotum. Other forms of HPV are responsible for non-genital warts, which are not sexually transmitted.
Sexually Transmitted HPV types fall into two categories:
- Low-Risk HPVs: do not cause cancer but can cause skin warts
- High Risk HPV: can cause cancer. HPV Types 16 and 18 are responsible for most HPV-caused cancers
HPV can cause these types of cancers:
- Cervical Cancer: Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV and HPV Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of the cancers.
- Anal Cancer: 95% of anal cancers are caused by HPV. Most are caused by HPV Type 16
- Oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the middle part of the throat, including soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.: 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV.
- Rarer cancers: HPV causes approximately 65% of vaginal cancers, 50 % of vulvar cancers, 35% of penile cancers.
Anyone who has been sexually active can get HPV. It is easily passed between partners through sexual contact. Individuals with many partners are more likely to contract the infection.
Can it be Prevented?
People who are not sexually active almost never contract the infection. Those that get vaccinated before sexual activity can reduce the risk of infections. Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix have been approved by The Food and Drug Administration(FDA). Consistent condom use also reduces the chance of getting HPV.
Tests and Treatment Options
HPV infections can be detected by testing the cells of the affected area for viral DNA or RNA. The FDA has approved some screenings such as pap smears and follow up testing for pap smears. There are currently no FDA-approved tests to detect HPV infections in men.
Currently there are no treatments for on going HPV infections There are treatments for genital warts, benign respiratory tract tumors, and precancerous changes at the cervix, and cancers resulting from HPV infections.
For More Information
National Cancer Institute
Center for Disease Control