About HPV Infection
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) and Cervical Cell Changes
HPVs are a group of related viruses, some of which are spread through sexual contact and can cause cancer, including cervical cancer. Here are some basic facts about HPV:
Most HPV infections, even with high-risk types, go away on their own without causing problems. They are fought off by the body's immune system. However, sometimes infections with high-risk HPV types do not go away. When a high-risk HPV infection of cervical cells lasts many years, the cells can become abnormal. These changes can get worse over time and may become cervical cancer. Although there is currently no way to treat an HPV infection, cervical cancer can be prevented by detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells before they become cancer.
Smoking may increase the risk that an HPV infection will persist and develop into cervical cancer. So if you smoke and have an abnormal Pap or HPV test result, it is especially important to stop smoking.
HPV infections are common. Most people who are sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point and never know it. HPV infections can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Although condoms can lower the risk of an HPV infection, they do not protect against them completely.
There Are Many Types of Sexually Transmitted Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs)
- High-risk HPV types can infect cervical cells and cause cervical cancer. They can also infect certain other cells to cause anal cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the middle of the throat, including the tonsils and the back of the tongue).
- Low-risk HPV types can cause genital warts. Genital warts do not turn into cancer.
Learn More About HPV
HPV and Cancer: A fact sheet about the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cancer.