- 7 Common Myths About HPV
- Myth 1: Only Women Get HPV
- Myth 2: All Strains of HPV Cause Cancer
- Myth 3: If You Don’t Have Sex, You Won’t Get HPV
- Myth 4: Men Can Get Screened for HPV
- Myth 5: There Are Treatment Options Available for HPV
- Myth 6: People With HPV Always Have Symptoms
- Myth 7: I Got the HPV Vaccine, So I Don’t Need to Get Pap Tests
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
- Human Papillomavirus: A Hidden Epidemic in the United States
- Vietnamese Women Have the Highest Incidence of Invasive Cervical Cancer in the United States
- Prevention and Controversy: From Pap Smears to Politics
- The Magnitude of the STI Epidemic in the United States
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Facts
- How Many Men Have HPV?
- Different Types of Genital HPV
- Men Clear HPV Infections Slower Than Women
- HPV Infection Can Be Prevented but not Cured
- Facts About HPV for Adults
- What is Human Papillomavirus?
- Symptoms of HPV Infection
- HPV Prevention
- Vaccine Safety
- HPV Disease and Vaccine Facts
- Types of Human Papillomavirus
- Low-Risk Human Papillomavirus
- High-Risk Human Papillomavirus
7 Common Myths About HPV
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, affecting about 79 million Americans.
But despite its prevalence, there are many misconceptions about who gets HPV, how they get it, and what a diagnosis means.
Here are the most common myths — and facts — about HPV.
Myth 1: Only Women Get HPV
Fact Men get HPV, too. Most sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Any person who has close, skin-to-skin contact with another person who has an HPV infection can get the infection, too.
Myth 2: All Strains of HPV Cause Cancer
Fact Not all HPV strains can cause cancer. The human papillomavirus is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some of those strains cause skin warts, some cause genital warts, and some can cause precancerous changes in cells that can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and oropharynx — the back and sides of the throat, tonsils, and base of the tongue.
The HPV strains that cause cancer are called high-risk HPV. Types 16 and 18, in particular, raise the risk of cervical cancer and genital cancers in men and women. Type 16 also causes the majority of cases of oropharyngeal cancer.
But according to the National Cancer Institute, even most high-risk HPV infections go away within one to two years and do not cause cancer.
When a high-risk type of HPV does persist, it can take years to decades for cancer to develop, which is why women are advised to get screened for cervical cancer every three to five years, depending on the method of screening used, from age 21 through age 65 and possibly beyond that.
RELATED: New Analysis Suggests Cervical Cancer Screening Should Continue After Age 65
Myth 3: If You Don’t Have Sex, You Won’t Get HPV
Fact HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, so you don’t have to have sexual intercourse to get HPV. Using condoms can lower your risk of contracting HPV, but you can still contract the virus if it’s present in skin not covered by a condom.
Myth 4: Men Can Get Screened for HPV
Fact There are no FDA-approved tests to screen for HPV in men. For women, there is a test that can detect HPV in cervical cells. Women can also get a Pap test, also called a Pap smear, to check for cancerous or precancerous changes in cervical cells.
Myth 5: There Are Treatment Options Available for HPV
Fact Although healthcare professionals can treat precancerous lesions, cancers, and genital warts that are caused by HPV infections, there’s no treatment available for the virus itself.
RELATED: HPV Warts: The Misunderstood STD
Myth 6: People With HPV Always Have Symptoms
Fact Most people who have HPV do not develop any symptoms. Although there are many potential health problems associated with HPV, including genital warts and cervical cancer, most people don’t develop health problems from an HPV infection. The CDC reports that in 90 percent of HPV cases, a person’s immune system fights off the infection within two years.
Myth 7: I Got the HPV Vaccine, So I Don’t Need to Get Pap Tests
Fact Even if you get the HPV vaccine, you still need to get regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. That’s because the HPV vaccines don’t protect against all the HPV types that can cause cancer. A woman may also have been infected with a cancer-causing strain of HPV before getting the vaccine, in which case it won’t protect her against that particular strain.
The HPV vaccine currently used in the United States, Gardasil 9, protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which can cause genital warts, as well as against types 16 and 18 and five other types that can cause cancer: 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
Two earlier HPV vaccines — Gardasil and Cervarix — protect against only two high-risk HPV strains (types 16 and 18) that cause cancer.
THURSDAY, Jan. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Many American men are infected with the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), but unlike women, men are more likely to stay infected throughout their lives, a new study finds.
About 45 percent of U.S. men are infected with the sexually transmitted disease, as are 45 percent of women. Among women, the prevalence of HPV infection drops to about 22 percent as they age, but it remains high among men, said lead researcher Dr. Jasmine Han. She is in the division of gynecologic oncology at Womack Army Medical Center, in Fort Bragg, N.C.
“We don’t know why it stays high in men while it drops in women,” she said. “Among men it’s higher than expected.”
Han speculates that the virus may remain in men because it lives in the penile glands, while in women, the virus is near the surface of the vagina and is more easily shed.
Although a vaccine against HPV has been available since 2009, coverage remains low. Only about 11 percent of men and 33 percent of women have been vaccinated, Han said.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease among men and women in the United States, according to background information in the study. About 79 million Americans are infected with some type of HPV, with approximately half of new infections occurring before age 24, the study authors said.
Most people infected with HPV don’t know they have it and don’t develop health problems from it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But HPV is not a benign infection. More than 9,000 cases of HPV-related cancers occur in men each year. HPV is the cause of 63 percent of penile, 91 percent of anal, and 72 percent of oral and throat cancers, the researchers noted.
In addition, HPV among men is an indirect cause of cervical cancer in women. The virus is also responsible for 90 percent of genital warts. HPV can also lead to tumors in the respiratory tract, called respiratory papillomatosis.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
Female pelvic anatomy
What is human papillpoma virus (HPV)?
HPV stands for human papilloma virus. It is a very common virus. There are about 100 types of HPV that affect different parts of the body. About 30 types of HPV can affect the genitals — including the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis and scrotum — as well as the rectum and anus. Of those, about 14 types are considered “high risk,” for leading to cervical cancer.
Male pelvic anatomy
How common is HPV?
HPV that affects the genitals is very common. Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, with roughly 14 million people becoming newly infected each year. Most men and women — about 80 percent of sexually active people — are infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but most people never know they have the virus.
Can men get HPV?
Yes. In men, genital warts most often appear on the penis, on the scrotum, in or around the anus, or on the groin. For men, HPV infection — including those that can cause cellular changes — cause no symptoms, so diagnosing HPV in men is difficult. The diagnosis of HPV in men is made when external genital warts are seen.
Since there is no treatment for HPV that has no symptoms, most men with the infection are not treated. Sometimes, a healthcare provider can see small warts that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. In general, HPV infection does not place a man at a much higher risk for health problems. However, HPV prevention is still important for men, as the virus has been linked to uncommon cancers such as penile, anal, and head and neck.
Certain strains of HPV can cause changes in the cells of the cervix, a condition called cervical dysplasia. If it is not treated, dysplasia can advance to cervical cancer. HPV is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. However, just because a woman has HPV or cervical dysplasia does not necessarily mean she will get cervical cancer.
Regular Pap tests are the best protection against cervical cancer. The test detects pre-cancerous changes and cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is almost always preventable or cured if pre-cancerous changes are detected and treated early, before cancer develops.
Before age 30, HPV infection is usually transient (gets better on its own). By age 30, finding HPV during Pap screening can help determine how often to be screened. The absence of high-risk HPV types usually means that a woman is at low risk for developing cervical changes related to the risk of cervical cancer. In this case, the period between Pap test screenings is usually five years for most women.
If a woman tests positive for high-risk HPV types, her healthcare provider will perform more frequent Pap tests to check for any cell changes that might be pre-cancerous or that need to be treated .
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a condition in which the cells in the lining of the cervix — the narrow, outer end of the uterus — change and grow very fast, producing a grouping of cells called a tumor. This condition usually develops over time. It can affect women of any age, but it is most common in women in their mid-40s. A type of virus, called HPV, is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer.
How do you get human papilloma virus (HPV)?
Genital HPV is spread through contact with (touching) the skin of someone who has an HPV infection. Contact includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, which are hard, rough lumps that grow on the skin. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV and genital warts.
In women, genital warts most often appear in the following areas of the body:
- On the vulva (the outer female genital area)
- In or around the vagina
- In or around the anus
- On the groin (where the genital area meets the inner thigh)
- On the cervix
What are the symptoms of HPV?
In many cases, HPV causes no symptoms. When they do occur, the most common symptom is warts in the genital area. Signs of infection can appear weeks, months, or even years after the person has been infected with the virus.
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Human Papillomavirus: A Hidden Epidemic in the United States
The human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, with an estimated 24 million active cases and 5.5 million new cases each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Various strains of HPV cause the great majority of cases of cervical cancer. Despite this fact, public ignorance about HPV is high. Recent studies have shown that there are high levels of HPV infection among women, with the highest levels among young women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One recent study among female college students indicated that an average of 14 percent become infected with genital HPV each year. Levels of current infection in men of the same age appear to be similar.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 70 percent of American adults 18 and older have never heard of HPV. Furthermore, most (89 percent) have never discussed the issue with their health provider. Although cases of HPV are not formally reported in the United States, available data from the CDC indicate that at least 75 percent of the reproductive-age population has been exposed to the sexually transmitted HPV. Fifteen percent of Americans ages 15 to 49 are estimated to be infected. Risk factors of infection include lifetime multiple sex partners, history of infection with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), early age at first intercourse, a weakened immune system, and the presence of HIV.
HPV is typically spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection. Despite their potential severity, the health consequences of HPV (and other STIs) often are hidden and can occur years after infection. Thus, many people do not know that they are infected or that they can pass the virus on to others.
Vietnamese Women Have the Highest Incidence of Invasive Cervical Cancer in the United States
Cervical cancer, which is associated with HPV infection, is now the ninth most common cancer among women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, in 1999, nearly 12,800 cases of this type of cancer were diagnosed. Of these cases, about one-third will ultimately die of the disease.
In the United States, Vietnamese women have the highest incidence of invasive cervical cancer (43 per 100,000); this probably reflects the lack of prior screening with a Pap smear, which can detect cervical cancer at an early treatable phase. Alaska Native, Korean, and Hispanic women represent other at-risk populations, with incidence rates of 15 per 100,000 or higher. African American women are more than twice as likely to die from the disease (6.7 per 100,000) than their white counterparts (2.5 per 100,000). This is due to the high number of cervical cancer deaths among older African American women, according to the National Cancer Institute. Women ages 65 and older, particularly African Americans, have much lower screening rates than their younger counterparts.
Prevention and Controversy: From Pap Smears to Politics
There is no effective way to prevent HPV infection. While condoms can reduce the risks, the virus can still be transmitted through even minor cuts in the skin. According to Penny Hitchcock, chief of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Branch of the U.S. government’s National Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, further research on topical microbicides and effective vaccines is critical. In addition, she strongly encourages young women to obtain regular Pap smears to help monitor the possible presence of pre-cancerous lesions that could lead to invasive cervical cancer.
Controversy exists about how best to handle the issue of HPV. One former U.S. legislator, Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has argued that several steps need to be taken to reduce the incidence of HPV. These include reporting new cases of HPV to the CDC and placing warnings on condom packages that condoms do not protect against HPV and that the virus is connected to cervical cancer. Many public health experts believe that a more targeted public health and research effort would have greater impact. This response involves encouraging greater sex education in schools and by health professionals regarding HPV and other STIs, promoting more regular Pap smears, and using HPV DNA testing.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have approved one HPV DNA test for use as a follow-up to irregular Pap smears. The test, which detects HPV on the cervix through administration of a cervical swab done by a health provider, distinguishes between high- and low-risk types of HPV.
A new vaccine against the most common strains of HPV may also be able to protect against 80 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine, developed by a Johns Hopkins University researcher, produced a strong immune response against HPV when tested on more than 70 volunteers. This vaccine may hold particular promise for less developed countries, where rates of cervical cancer are higher because women cannot afford Pap tests to detect the disease.
It is also imperative to continue using condoms. Condoms, particularly when used with spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies, may reduce the risk of transmitting HPV and other STIs for those who are sexually active. Sexual abstinence is another option.
The Magnitude of the STI Epidemic in the United States
In addition to HPV, there are other diseases that are spread primarily through sexual activity. Taken together, they represent a significant public health problem in the United States. According to the latest CDC estimates, more than 65 million people in the country currently live with an incurable STI. Of these, 20 million Americans carry HPV. In addition, researcher Willard Cates estimates that there are 15 million new STI cases in the United States each year. Genital HPV represents one-third of all new STI infections each year. About one-fourth of these infections occur in adolescents. Even though some of the STIs, such as syphilis, are declining, others, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital herpes persist in the population.
According to a speech given Dr. Judith Wasserheit, director of the STD Prevention Program at the CDC, gonorrhea represents one of the key diseases for American youth. Gonorrhea is a curable bacterial disease that if left untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women. Those infected with gonorrhea also face greater risk of transmitting or becoming infected with the AIDS virus.
Gonococcal infections rose 9 percent from 1997 to 1999, especially among young people, gay and bisexual men, and African Americans. While 360,000 new cases are reported each year, Wasserheit believes that the actual numbers are twice as high. The Southern states are the most heavily affected. Poverty and inadequate access to quality health care and preventive services are primary reasons for the increase. Being infected with gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility if untreated in women. It can also raise the risk of transmitting or becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI in the United States. If left untreated, 20 percent to 40 percent of women with genital chlamydial infections develop PID, which can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. Recent studies have also linked chlamydia with increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
More than one in five Americans is infected with genital herpes. The prevalence of herpes simplex virus type two (the virus that causes genital herpes) has remained relatively stable at 19 percent among youth, according to the CDC.
American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts and Figures” (2000).
American Social Health Association, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases and At What Cost?” (December 1998).
W. Cates et al., “Estimates of the Incidence and Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States,” in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1999.
Couto Ilka and Cynthia Dailard, “Wanted: A Balanced Policy and Program Response to HPV and Cervical Cancer,” in the Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, December 1999.
Kaiser Family Foundation, “HPV and Cervical Cancer” Fact Sheet, February 2000.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Tracking the Hidden Epidemics: Trends in STDs in the United States,” 2000.
Table 1: Incidence/Prevalence of STIs in the US
|STI||Incidence (Estimated number of new cases every year)||Prevalence* (Estimated number of people currently infected)|
|Chlamydia||3 million||2 million|
|Trichomoniasis||5.0 million||not available|
|Bacterial vaginosis**||Not available||not available|
|Herpes||1 million||45 million|
|Human papillomavirus (HPV)||5.5 million||20 million|
* No recent surveys on national prevalence for gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, or bacterial vaginosis have been conducted.
** Bacterial vaginosis is a non-sexually transmitted genital infection that causes most vaginal symptoms among women of childbearing age.
Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, “HPV and Cervical Cancer” Fact Sheet (February 2000); American Social Health Association, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases and at What Cost?” (December 1998); U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Tracking the Hidden Epidemics: Trends in STDs in the United States” (2000); and W. Cates et al., “Estimates of the Incidence and Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States,” in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1999.
What is HPV?
HPV is the name of a group of more than 100 types of viruses. Thirty of these viruses are sexually transmissible and constitute genital HPV. There is debate about whether some strains of HPV are transient infections that may be cleared from the body, or whether these strains of HPV permanently reside there but may be difficult to detect at times. Other types of HPV can cause visible, and sometimes troublesome, genital warts. Research also shows that a small number of more persistent HPV strains may lead to cervical cancer. HPV has no cure but symptoms (including genital warts and early stages of cervical cancer) can be treated.
Measures of STIs
Estimates of the incidence and prevalence of STIs, including HPV, in the U.S. vary according to the source of data and the methods used to detect infections. Sources include reportable infections to the CDC such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia; diagnoses made during visits to office-based health practitioners; national surveys of representative populations; prevalence data for those attending special health facilities such as family planning clinics; and data from other national STI surveys such as the National Disease and Therapeutic Index. There is no national reporting requirement for the other five major STIs — genital herpes, HPV, hepatitis B, HIV, and trichomoniasis.
Steps Taken by CDC to Address HPV
In response to the HPV situation, the U.S. Congress in the 2001 appropriations bill required CDC to conduct further research and activities regarding HPV. Over the next few years, CDC will
- carry out a study to determine the incidence of HPV infection in adolescent girls aged 12–19 years of age in Atlanta;
- establish additional HPV prevalence and epidemiology surveillance in nationally representative samples using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with special focus on HPV 16, the most common “high risk” type of HPV associated with cervical cancer;
- establish four to eight sentinel surveillance sites to monitor the prevalence of high-risk HPV types in women;
- implement a research and patient survey to develop and pilot health messages for HPV patients and their partners;
- conduct a survey of health providers to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding HPV diagnosis and treatment to improve testing, treatment, and counseling of HPV patients and their partners.
For More Information
More information about STIs in the U.S. and Canada, including HPV, can be found on these websites:
CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention www.cdc.gov/std/
American Social Health Association www.ashastd.org
Health Canada www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
More than two-thirds of healthy Americans have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection on some part of their body, a new study suggests.
Researchers examined DNA from tissue samples of about 100 men and women and found that 69 percent were infected with HPV.
The most common place to have an HPV infection was the skin — 61 percent of participants had an HPV infection on the skin, followed by 41 percent who had vaginal infections, 30 percent who had mouth infections and 17 percent who had gut infections.
Altogether, the researchers found 109 strains of HPV, out of 148 known strains.
However, most of these infections are likely harmless, as participants did not have symptoms of illness, the researchers said. Just 4 percent of people in the study were infected with HPV-16 or HPV-18, the two strains of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers.
“We don’t want people to be alarmed,” about the commonness of this infection, said study researcher Dr. Zhiheng Pei, a pathologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. In fact, although people tend to think of viral infections as “bad,” it’s possible that infection with some HPV strains may have benefits, Pei said. For example, infection with some “good” HPV strains may stimulate the immune system so that the body is able to fight off the harmful, cancer-causing HPV strains, Pei said.
More research is needed to better understand how non-cancer causing strains of HPV interact with cancer-causing strains, the researchers said.
HPVs are a group of more than 150 related viruses that infect different parts of the body. Most infections go away on their own, but some can linger and lead to health problems, including genital warts and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are at least a dozen types of HPV linked to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Previous studies have shown that HPV infections are common. Most people get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime, and a 2011 study found that, at any given point in time, about 42 percent of women have a genital HPV infection, the NCI says.
However, most earlier studies tested for only a small fraction of the known HPV types — those that are linked to cancer, Pei said. The method used in the new study detected all types of HPV, Pei said.
The researchers analyzed publicly available data from the National Institutes of Health, which was collected as part of a NIH project to understand how microorganisms affect health. The data included genetic information from tissue samples taken from participants’ skin, vagina, mouth and gut. (Although HPV also infects the penis, the researchers were not able to look at penile infections, because samples from the penis were not collected in the NIH project.)
The study will be presented today (May 20) at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston.
Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Facts
Week of 2.23.07 What is HPV?
Graphic: How HPV can lead to cancer (source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)
HPV is a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these viruses are sexually transmitted, and they can infect the genital area of men and women. HPV is one of the most common causes of sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world.
While most people who become infected with HPV will not have any symptoms and will clear the infection on their own, some will develop complications that may lead to cancer.
How do you contract HPV?
HPV is spread through direct sexual contact or, more rarely, skin-to-skin contact during sexual acts. Genital warts, the most obvious sign of HPV infection, are very contagious. About two-thirds of people who have sexual contact with a partner with genital warts will develop warts, usually within three months of contact.
Someone infected with HPV but without symptoms can still spread the virus to sexual partners and/or develop HPV related complications.
What are the symptoms of HPV infection?
Most people who have a genital HPV infection do not know they are infected because many types of the virus remain latent and cause no symptoms.
The most easily recognized sign of genital HPV infection is genital warts, which only appear if one has contracted a specific kind of HPV and the infection is active. (However, one may spread the virus even if he or she does not have warts.) Warts may look like tiny bunches of cauliflower or like flat, white areas that may be difficult to see.
Many people have a genital HPV infection without genital warts. Some of these types of the virus are ones most associated with precancerous and cancerous changes to the cervix, making diagnosis important.
How is HPV diagnosed?
Health professionals diagnose HPV through medical history and physical examination. Women with genital warts should be examined for possible HPV infection of the cervix.
Most women are diagnosed with HPV on the basis of abnormal Pap tests. A Pap test is the primary cancer-screening tool for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, many of which are related to HPV. Thus, yearly Pap tests are an important part of diagnosis of HPV for women.
No HPV tests are available for men.
Is there a cure for HPV infection?
There is no “cure” for HPV infection. In most cases, the infection goes away on its own, although the virus remains. Available treatments are most often directed to the changes in the skin or mucous membrane caused by HPV infection, such as warts and pre-cancerous changes in the cervix.
What are the greatest risk factors for contracting HPV?
Risk factors include:
- Having unprotected sexual or genital contact
- Having multiple sex partners or a high-risk partner(s) who have had multiple sex partners or HPV-infected sex partners.
- Starting sexual activity before age 18.
- Having an impaired immune system.
How many people are infected with HPV?
Health experts estimate there are more cases of genital HPV infection than any other STI in the United States. At least 20 million people in this country are already infected. Approximately 6.2 million new cases of sexually-transmitted HPV infections are reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection.
How is HPV related to cancer?
Research has determined that approximately 10 of the 30 identified genital HPV types can lead, in rare cases, to development of cervical cancer. The only known cause of cervical cancer is HPV, and the research on how it causes the cancer is solidly established.
Every year in the U.S. about 10,000 women get cervical cancer, and 3,700 die from it, according to the CDC, It is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women around the world. HPV is also linked to other rare cancers such as anal, vaginal and penile cancers.
How do you prevent the spread of HPV?
Someone infected with HPV should avoid direct sexual contact with others during treatment and for several weeks after treatment ends. Recently a vaccine called Gardisil was introduced by the pharmaceutical company Merck. Gardasil blocks certain high-risk strains of HPV which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. GlaxoSmithKline also has a vaccine in development that is in the final stages of clinical testing.
How does the vaccine work?
The vaccine works like most vaccines: by stimulating an immune response that protects against infection, without actually causing infection. It is not a live virus. Like the hepatitis B vaccine, the HPV vaccine is made with a single protein from the virus that induces protective antibodies. Thus, the virus never gets to cervical cells.
How effective is the vaccine?
Gardasil prevents a vaccinated person from contracting (and thus transmitting) the four strains of HPV that cause up to 70 percent of all cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. But it works only if a woman gets the vaccine before she’s sexually active or has an HPV infection.
The vaccine is most effective before first sexual contact. However, according to the CDC most sexually active women will still benefit from the vaccine. For example, a woman might have a certain strain of HPV, but the vaccine could prevent her from getting another.
(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, WebMD)
” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Genital HPV Infection
” TeensHealth.org: Information For Teens: Vaccine Against Genital Warts and Cervical Cancer
How Many Men Have HPV?
Half of men ages 18 to 70 who participated in a study of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States were infected with some form of the virus, according to the “HPV in Men” (HIM) study recently published in The Lancet.1 Anna Giuliano, of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, and her colleagues screened 4,074 men from the general population, universities, and organized health care systems in southern Florida; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Cuernavaca, Mexico. The researchers studied the natural history of HPV infections to get a snapshot of how they affect men.
HPV is a group of more than 150 types of related viruses—of which more than 40 are sexually transmitted and can be spread very easily through genital contact with another person.2 Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, currently affecting about 20 million Americans.3 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is so common that at least half of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. But only one type, HPV-16, causes cancer in men, said Giuliano in an interview with NPR on March 4, 2011.4
Giuliano’s study reports on the first 1,159 men who participated in the study. At the time of enrollment, 50 percent of men were infected with genital HPV. “We were actually detecting 37 different types of HPV occurring—that could occur in men at the external genital skin. And we followed men prospectively so we could actually look at the rate at which men acquire these new infections, and the rate at which these infections are cleared,” she told NPR. She emphasized in the interview that the study was “a summary measure of all HPV types that were detected”—only some of the 37 HPV types cause cancer.
Different Types of Genital HPV
Some genital HPVs are high-risk, causing cancer and other diseases; others are low-risk, for example, those causing genital warts.5 About 15 high-risk viruses are factors in cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, and head and neck in women; and contributors to cancers of the penis, anus, and head and neck in men (see Table 1). HPV infection accounts for 5 percent of all cancers worldwide. HPV-16 and HPV-18 together are linked to about 70 percent of cervical cancers. There is no simple screening to find HPV in men and no effective screening for noncervical cancers in men and women.6
HPV-Related Cancer and Disease in the U.S.
Men Clear HPV Infections Slower Than Women
HPV is a silent infection. Most people infected with HPV show no symptoms and can unknowingly transmit the virus to their sexual partners.7 In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears the infection on its own within two years. In the HIM study group, new HPV infections took an average of 7.5 months to clear (see Table 2). Men ages 18 to 30 require significantly longer than other age groups to clear any type of HPV infection—a phenomenon strongly associated with sexual behavior with female and male sexual partners. While women’s risk of HPV decreases with age, men appear to be at high risk of acquiring new HPV infections throughout their lives.
HPV Infection in Men Ages 18-70, 2009
HPV Infection Can Be Prevented but not Cured
As with other sexually transmitted infections, the risk of getting or transmitting an HPV infection can be significantly reduced by always using a condom. In 2006, the FDA approved vaccines to protect girls and young women from being infected with common types of HPV. Gardasil and Cervarix protect against cancer-causing types 16 and 18, while Gardasil also protects against types 6 and 11 which cause genital warts. These vaccines lessen the risk of new infections; they do not cure existing ones.
While Gardasil has also been approved for boys and men ages 9 through 26, the vaccine is not on the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for males in this age group. The reason: Studies suggest that the best way to prevent the most HPV-related disease is by vaccinating as many girls and women as possible.8 As of 2009, 17 percent of women ages 19 to 26 had received at least one dose of HPV vaccination. Among boys ages 11 to 17, less than 1 percent have been vaccinated, but the share of vaccinated men on college campuses is around 15 percent.9
While genital warts are not a health threat and do not lead to cancer, Dr. James C. Turner, a liaison to the government’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, indicates that they are more than just a nuisance for those affected: “I would say that the men that I see would rate genital warts on the quality scale just above death,” Turner noted in a New York Times article.10
Facts About HPV for Adults
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 100 viruses that are usually spread through sexual contact. HPV infection is extremely common; there are more than 14 million new infections in the US each year and more than 80 percent of sexually active men and women will get it in their lifetime. Most new infections occur in teens and young adults. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and can also cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat. The virus also causes genital warts. People can pass the virus on even if they have no symptoms and even if years have passed since they were first infected.
Symptoms of HPV Infection
Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms and will clear the virus within a few years. However, some people will get visible genital warts that are usually soft, moist, pink or fleshy colored swellings. The warts can be removed by medications or other treatments. They may also resolve without treatment. In either case, disappearance of the warts does not mean the virus has left the body.
Certain types of HPV are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Often, the first indication a woman gets that she is carrying HPV may be when she receives abnormal Pap test results.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 11- to 12-year-olds get two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose. Three doses are recommended for those that initiate the vaccination series after age 15 years, and for those who are immunocompromised.
Both males and females up to age 26 years who were not adequately vaccinated should receive catch-up HPV vaccination.
Adults age 27-45 years should talk to a healthcare professional about whether HPV vaccination is right for them. Shared clinical decision-making is recommended because some individuals who are not adequately vaccinated might benefit from vaccination
View additional information on the CDC recommendations.
HPV vaccines are safe and effective. The vaccine have been tested in thousands of people around the world. The studies have shown no serious side effects. The most common side effects are usually mild and include soreness at the injection site, fever, headache, and nausea.
HPV Disease and Vaccine Facts
- FACT: In addition to cervical cancer, HPV causes penile, anal, mouth and throat cancers.
- FACT: HPV infection is very common. There are about 14 million new cases in the US annually.
- FACT: Most women find out they have HPV because of abnormal Pap test results. A Pap test is the primary tool used to detect cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix.
- FACT: Most HPV infections occur without symptoms and resolve on their own in healthy, non-immunosuppressed individuals.
- FACT: HPV is spread through genital or skin-to-skin contact. The virus can be spread even when no symptoms (e.g., genital warts) are evident.
- FACT: Individuals already infected with HPV should still get vaccinated because the vaccine may protect against additional HPV strains. However, for maximum benefit, vaccination should occur before an individual becomes sexually active and exposed to the virus.
- FACT: The HPV vaccine does not treat HPV infection. There is no cure for HPV infection.
- FACT: Vaccinated women should continue to get regularly scheduled Pap screenings because the vaccine does not protect against all HPV types.
For more information, speak with a healthcare professional.
Types of Human Papillomavirus
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Nearly 80 million Americans have the infection, and about 14 million become newly infected every year. In fact, most sexually active people contract HPV at some point in their lives. The virus spreads easily through skin-to-skin sexual contact.
HPV doesn’t always cause symptoms, and many people with the virus don’t know they have it. More than 90 percent of all new HPV infections go away or become undetectable within two years, even without treatment. Yet some HPV infections can stay in the body and lead to complications, including genital warts. These warts may be small or large, flat or raised; they may emerge singly or in a cluster and be cauliflower-shaped. They appear most often on the vulva, the outer part of a woman’s genitals, and the penis. HPV infection may also cause more serious conditions, such as certain types of cancer.
Of the more than 150 strains of HPV, 40 affect the genital area, but most don’t pose a serious risk to health. A person can be infected with more than one HPV strain at a time. Strains are identified by number and fall into either of the following two categories.
Low-Risk Human Papillomavirus
Infection with most low-risk genital HPV strains doesn’t cause symptoms and disappears when the body builds immunity to the virus. These strains have no association with cancer but can lead to genital warts.
In addition to the vulva and the penis, warts may appear on the cervix or vagina in women, the scrotum in men, or in and around the anus in men or women. Warts may also appear in the mouth and throat. Two strains of HPV, types 6 and 11, cause 90 percent of these warts. Only about 1 percent of sexually active Americans have noticeable genital warts, which require treatment to prevent the spread to other genital areas and to sexual partners.
Some low-risk HPV strains can cause mild cervical dysplasia, abnormal changes in the cells on the surface of the cervix. These changes are not precancerous.
High-Risk Human Papillomavirus
Infection with high-risk HPV can lead to more extensive cervical dysplasia and certain types of cancer. There are at least 12 high-risk strains of HPV, but only two—types 16 and 18—cause the majority of HPV-related cancers, including those involving the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and anus. High-risk HPV strains can also lead to cancers of the throat, tongue, and tonsils, known as oropharyngeal cancer.
Researchers believe that HPV infections of the mouth and throat may be caused by oral sexual contact with someone who has an active high-risk infection. It’s important to remember, however, that for most people, the immune system rids the body of HPV within two years. Although infection with high-risk HPV strains can cause cancer, most people infected with these strains don’t develop cancer.