Human Papillomavirus

Also known as: HPV

Identification and Definition

HPV is a group of over 100 different viruses that are closely related. While primarily named for the warts it can cause, there are many different strands that can cause a multitude of ailments, including cervical cancer. Due to the high prevalence of HPV, almost all sexually active adults will contract some strand of HPV in their lives.

HPV, a brief history

HPV was first linked to cervical cancer in the 1980s, however the first study published linking cervical cancer and HPV did not come out until the 1990s. Approximately 14 million new cases of HPV occur every year in the United States alone. The first vaccine became available in 2006.

Signs & Symptoms of HPV

Generally, HPV does not require treatment, however, if symptoms do occur, they are very severe and noticeable.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower.

Cervical cancer usually does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced, very serious and hard to treat. For this reason, it is important for women to get regular screening for cervical cancer. Screening tests can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early, before they ever turn into cancer.

Other HPV-related cancers might not have signs or symptoms until they are advanced and hard to treat. These include cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

Transmission of HPV

HPV is transmitted via any intimate skin on skin contact. HPV can be transmitted during any form of sexual contact such as: anal, vaginal, or oral sex. It is the most common STI in the world today. Any person that is sexually active can contract HPV.

Complications of HPV


HPV can affect sexually active individuals of any age, new infections are generally in individuals from 15-24 years of age. It can cause

Common HPV complications include genital warts and cervical cancer.

-Cervical Cancer generally does not show any symptoms until it is very advanced in an individual's body.

-Genital Warts often show up quickly on individuals, causing extreme amounts of pain and discomfort.

HPV can cause complications with pregnancy if an individual has contracted cervical, or another form of genital cancer.

Recommended control measures for HPV

-Many strands of HPV can be prevented by receiving the vaccine series.

-Individuals should receive the vaccine series before turning 26 years of age.

-The vaccine series is proven to be 93% effective in preventing genital warts and cervical cancer in women.

-The vaccine series is 88% effective in men for preventing genital warts and other cancers in men that have sex with women, and 75% effective for men that have sex with men.

-Unfortunately, there is not enough current data to show how effective the vaccine is overall in the United States, or globally.

-Worldwide an estimated 79 million individuals with HPV, and 14 million new cases annually, with half of all new cases being in individuals from 15-24 years of age.