What is HPV?

Papillomaviruses are small, non-enveloped, epitheliotropic, double-stranded DNA viruses that infect mucosal and cutaneous epithelia in a wide variety of higher vertebrates.

HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes).There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 13 are cancer-causing ( high risk type). Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions.

How is HPV spread?

You can get HPV by having sex with someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

Does HPV cause health problems?

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

Does HPV cause cancer?

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers, including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus and oropharyngeal cancer.

Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions with an estimated 445 000 new cases in 2012 (84% of the new cases worldwide). In 2012, approximately 270 000 women died from cervical cancer; more than 85% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Vaccines against HPV 16 and 18 have been approved for use in many countries.

How can I avoid HPV and the health problems it can cause?

You can do several things to lower your chances of getting HPV. Get vaccinated. HPV vaccines are safe and effective. They can protect males and females against diseases (including cancers). HPV vaccines are given in three shots over six months; it is important to get all three doses.