Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a term that refers to a large group of viruses that cause wart-like growths, called papillomas, or cancers. HPV is an infection that can be spread through blood and sexual contact, including oral sex. HPV infection commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts) on different parts of your body— including the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, and scrotum — as well as the rectum and anus, leading to cervical cancer. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of genital HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer. There are about 100 types of HPV and some can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. 
  • 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. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.
  • HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.


Risk factors

  • Number of sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract a genital HPV infection. 
  • Age. Common warts occur mostly in children. Genital warts occur most often in adolescents and young adults.
  • Weakened immune systems. People who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk of HPV infections. 
  • Damaged skin. Areas of skin that have been punctured or opened are more prone to develop common warts.
  • Personal contact. Touching someone's warts or not wearing protection before contacting surfaces that have been exposed to HPV might increase your risk of HPV infection.
Diagnosis may be done by visual inspection, Pap test or biopsy of new growth, depending on the symptoms.
There is no cure for the virus itself, but many HPV infections go away on their own. When treatment is needed, the goal is to relieve symptoms by removing any visible warts and abnormal cells in the cervix.
  • Nearly 70% of certain head and neck cancers in men and women are caused by HPV.
  • Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV.
  • Roughly 14 million people will become newly infected each year.
  • About 70-90% of cases of HPV infection are cleared from the body by the immune system.
about human papillomavirus (HPV)

  • "Human Papillomavirus (HPV)." Human Papillomavirus (HPV) | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.
  • "Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 May 2017.
  • "What Is HPV?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.
  • "HPV Infection." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.
  • "Cervical HPV Symptoms & Treatment." Cleveland Clinic: Health Library. Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.
  • Burd, Eileen M. "Human Papillomavirus and Cervical Cancer." Clinical Microbiology Reviews. American Society for Microbiology, Jan. 2003. Web. 01 May 2017.


In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, team heatheo360 put together an infographic to further spread the ways in which to prevent cervical cancer and to distribute crucial information about the disease.
cervical cancer awareness month

Roughly 40 types of HPV are considered high risk and may cause more serious health complications. HPV is responsible for most cervical cancers, as well as vaginal, vulvar, anal, rectum, penile, and oropharynx cancer. While there is no known cure for HPV, you can lower your risk of infection by following these simple steps. Here are five ways to prevent HPV:
understanding human papillomavirus (HPV)


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