About HPV

Key Points About HPV:

  • HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common virus that infects the skin and mucous membranes.
  • There are about 100 types of HPV. Approximately 30 of those are spread through genital contact (typically sexual intercourse). Around 12 – called "low-risk" types of HPV – can cause genital warts. In addition, there are approximately 15 "high-risk" types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
  • It is estimated that 80 percent of all women – and 50 percent of men and women combined – will get one or more types of "genital" HPV at some point in their lives.
  • Although risk factors like smoking can contribute to your chance of developing cervical disease, HPV must first be present.
  • Fortunately, in most people, the body's immune system fights off or suppresses the HPV virus before it causes problems. It is only when the infection persists that it can cause cells to become abnormal.
  • Infection with the most common types of "genital" HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. However, vaccination is only fully effective if administered before a girl or young woman has been exposed to those types of HPV through sexual contact. In addition, the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Thus, it is important to get a regular Pap and – if you're over 30 – an HPV test, even if you've been vaccinated. A Pap can identify abnormal cells, and the digene HPV Test detects the presence of 13 high-risk types of HPV. Together, they help make sure abnormal cells are diagnosed and treated early.