Opinions on Human papillomavirus

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"HPV" redirects here. For other uses, see HPV (disambiguation).
The Papillomavirus article covers the general biological features of human and animal papillomaviruses.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family that is capable of infecting humans. Like all papillomaviruses, HPVs establish productive infections only in keratinocytes of the skin or mucous membranes. Most HPV infections are subclinical and will cause no physical symptoms; however, in some people subclinical infections will become clinical and may cause benign papillomas (such as warts [verrucae] or squamous cell papilloma), or cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anus. In particular, HPV16 and HPV18 are known to cause around 70% of cervical cancer cases.

More than 40 types of HPV are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the anogenital region (anus and genitals). Some sexually transmitted HPV types may cause genital warts. Persistent infection with "high-risk" HPV types—different from the ones that cause skin warts—may progress to precancerous lesions and invasive cancer. High-risk HPV infection is a cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. However, most infections do not cause disease. New vaccines have been developed to protect against infection with HPV (see HPV vaccines).

Seventy percent of clinical HPV infections, in young men and women, may regress to subclinical in one year and ninety percent in two years. However, when the subclinical infection persists—in 5% to 10% of infected women—there is high risk of developing precancerous lesions of the vulva and cervix, which can progress to invasive cancer. Progression from subclinical to clinical infection may take years, providing opportunities for detection and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions.

In more developed countries, cervical screening using a Papanicolaou (Pap) test or liquid-based cytology is used to detect abnormal cells that may develop into cancer. If abnormal cells are found, women are invited to have a colposcopy. During a colposcopic inspection, biopsies can be taken and abnormal areas can be removed with a simple procedure, typically with a cauterizing loop or, more commonly in the developing world—by freezing (cryotherapy). Treating abnormal cells in this way can prevent them from developing into cervical cancer. Pap smears have reduced the incidence and fatalities of cervical cancer in the developed world. In 2012, it was estimated that there were 528,000 cases of cervical cancer, and 266,000 deaths. It is estimated that there will be 12,900 diagnosed cases of cervical cancer and 4,100 deaths in the U.S. in 2015. There are 48,000 cases of genital warts in UK men each year. HPV causes cancers of the throat, anus and penis as well as causing genital warts.


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